basketball Edit

Joe has change of heart, re-enters NBA Draft

Isaiah Joe's career at Arkansas is over.
Isaiah Joe's career at Arkansas is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Joe has had a change of heart.

Just a couple weeks after announcing he would return to Arkansas for his junior season, the sharpshooter has decided to re-enter the NBA Draft ahead of the league’s Aug. 17 deadline for underclassmen to declare.

In a message posted on Twitter, Joe said the decision is the result of “the unprecedented cancellation of fall sports by several major college conferences” over the past week.

“My announcement on Aug. 1 to return to school for another season as a Razorback was made with whole-hearted excitement and sincerity,” Joe wrote, “but a lot has happened in a short period of time since then to increase the uncertainty that college sports will be played this season.”

Joe is one of two Arkansas players to forgo remaining eligibility and enter the 2020 NBA Draft that is scheduled for Oct. 16, joining Mason Jones. Both players were invited to the combine, which has yet to be rescheduled.

"We will always support our players when they decide to chase their NBA dream," head coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. "We will continue to help Isaiah in any way we can and wish him nothing but the best. Zai has cemented his legacy at Arkansas and will forever be a Razorback.”

Coming off a freshman season in which he made a UA single-season record 113 three-pointers, Joe was widely projected as a first-round pick in 2020. He followed that up with a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals. His scoring ranked seventh in the SEC, while leading the conference with 94 three-pointers.

However, a knee injury suffered in the middle of SEC play required a minor procedure that forced him to miss multiple games. The Razorbacks beat TCU without Joe, but later lost five straight games during his absence.

His three-point shooting percentage dipped from 41.4 percent as a freshman to 34.2 percent last season, but he’s still one of the most prolific shooters in UA history. In just two seasons, he already ranks seventh on Arkansas’ all-time list with 203 career three-pointers.

Joe also shattered the Razorbacks’ career record for most threes made per game, averaging 3.44 over 59 games. Rotnei Clarke previously held the record at 2.98.

With Joe changing his mind and joining Jones as an early entrant for the NBA Draft, Musselman will be tasked with replacing his top three scorers, as third-leading scorer Jimmy Whitt Jr. exhausted his eligibility last season.

The last time the Razorbacks had to do that was the 2015-16 season, when they went 16-16 after Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls declared for the NBA Draft early and Rashad Madden graduated.

With 10 newcomers - four Rivals150 signees, three sit-out transfers and three graduate transfers - added to the roster this offseason, Arkansas will have several options to fill that void next season.

That also doesn’t include whatever Musselman opts to do with the open scholarship created by Joe’s departure, as the Razorbacks are now one under the 13-man limit allowed by the NCAA.