His junior season he played with Spire Academy in Ohio, a team that featured guard LaMelo Ball and Rocket Watts. That left Isaiah Jackson to fill a role while Ball, who played overseas last year and should be a top five pick in the NBA draft, and Watts, who averaged 9.0 points per game at Michigan State last season, were the team’s starts.
For his senior season, the 6-9 Jackson transferred to Waterford Mott High School in Michigan and became his team’s star. He averaged 19.7 points, 13 rebounds, 7.7 blocks, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
“As the season went on, he got more acclimated and comfortable in his situation with us,” said Waterford Mott coach David Mc- Glown. “He started hanging with the guys more. His game got better and better.
“He was putting in work on his own away from practice. His whole game just kept improving. His jump shot improved. His court awareness got better. On the court, his work ethic was through the roof.”
He also handled being the center of attention, especially after signing with the University of Kentucky and coach John Calipari in November.
“He handled it with grace. I told him it would be really different. He had played with Ball and Rocket. He never had to worry about being the only star guy on the team,” McGlown said. “I told him he would have to take the bull by the horns with us because he would be a marked man.
“Every game you could see him get more comfortable with that. By the end of the season, he was just taking off. It really hurt that our season got cut short (by COVID-19) because I feel like we had a great chance to win the state championship and he was going to be the guy to get that done for us.”
McGlown says Jackson has worked out a lot with his cousin, a trainer, after the high school season was halted but has not been able to get inside a gym very often even though that should change soon when he gets to report to UK.
“Isaiah has not been able to do a lot with the basketball, just a little stuff outside. But he’s staying in great shape,” his coach said
McGlown had Jackson concentrate on his “all-around game” all season to get ready for Kentucky.
“I knew he could dominate here doing the same things he always has. My challenge to him was to shoot four or five 3’s a game to expand his offensive game and let people know he was not just a post-you-up, defensive player,” McGlown said. “I think he proved what he could do and let people know he is not just a back to the basketball offensive player and defensive rim guy. He’s got some offensive skills, too.”
Jackson has enough that Rivals.com writer Dan McDonald, program director at LakePoint Hoops, thinks he is the most underrated post player in the 2020 recruiting class.
“I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised if he ends up being the best post player in the class when all is said and done,” McDonald said. “He’s not somebody I’ve seen a ton of, but I’ve really liked him the few times I have watched him. He’s long and athletic and plays super hard. He has good hands and finishes well. He’s productive.
“I think those are all traits that will help him get on the floor early for Kentucky and make an impact. He does need to get better offensively as far as adding more polish to his post-up game and just overall skill.”
McGlown believes his star’s future ceiling is extremely high, too.
“If he gets confident in his outside game to go with what already has he will be a NBA player in two years,” McGlown said before the season started. “I don’t mean a guy going in the second round, either. I mean a top 15 pick.”
“I still feel the same way, maybe even more,” McGlown said. “As I got to see him more and he showed flashes of things he could do, I knew for sure this guy will be a pro and a good one as long as he keeps that work ethic he has now. He will get plenty of extra work with Kentucky and I truly believe the sky is the limit for him.”
Yet Jackson is only ranked from 26th to 32nd by the top national recruiting services, a ranking that McGlown does not understand.
“I just feel like whoever does that ranking has not really watched him that much,” McGlown said. “He has played well and apparently some others have not seen the different things from him that I have seen. They have not seen the way he can hit a jump shot or his drop step or just the way he can dunk. I saw his progress this season and I am more in awe of him now that I have been around him.” If Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr is not ruled eligible by the NCAA, Jackson could be UK’s only real option at center — a role McGlown says he will fill if needed.
“He can play inside with no problems if needed,” Mc- Glown said. “He’s not thick but he’s not soft or timid when he gets the ball down low. He plays stronger and bigger than what he is. He will put on more strength and weight when he gets there and he can easily do that. He’s also like a deer when it comes to running up and down the court. He has an unusual set of skills already.”
How good could first baseman Mallory Peyton and shortstop Lauren Johnson, both seniors, be for Kentucky softball in 2021?
Peyton hit .379 last season in 24 starts before the season was halted by COVID 19. She had a team-high 11 home runs (second best in the nation), drove in 35 runs and scored 24 runs. Johnson hit .323 in 24 starts, drove in 17 runs, scored 16 runs and walked 13 times.
“What is so impressive about them is that they are in-state girls (Johnson from Owensboro, Peyton from Madisonville). They are both so athletic,” said senior pitcher Autumn Humes. “I expect great leadership from both of them (next year) that we have not seen in the past.
“We’ve had some calls with upperclassmen and leadership council about how to implement accountability and they are all over it. I can see they are both on top of their games working out. They have a great mindset going into next season already. Both of them are extraordinary players.”
They will be counted on even more offensively to help offset the loss of Alex Martens, the team leader in runs batted-in the last two years.
“I believe if they do what it takes in the offseason, and I know they will, then I truly believe they will take up the slack from losing Alex,” Humes said.
Speed is the one thing that jumps out at everyone about 2021 Kentucky commit Dekel Crowdus of Frederick Douglass High School?
But just how fast is he?
“He is fast. That’s all I know. Nobody catches him,” said Frederick Douglass offensive lineman Jager Burton, the state’s top rated recruit in the 2021 class. “I think he ran a 4.3 (40-yard dash) at Ohio State.
“I just know he is pretty fast and is really working on his route running now and that is only going to make him better.”
Burton says Crowdus is one of the hardest workers he’s been around and just knows how to make plays because he understands the game so well.
“I think another big thing about Dekel is his ability in space. He is not just a run straight guy. He can stick his foot in the ground and turn up field really fast,” Burton said.
“ I have been running right behind him blocking for him and he jukes me out. He is like a receiver’s dream. He is really, really good and is just going to get better.”
Roger Harden was a senior point guard at Kentucky when Rex Chapman was a high school senior at Owensboro Apollo and signed to play basketball at Kentucky.
In two seasons at Kentucky,
Chapman scored 1,073 points before entering the 1988 NBA draft where he was the eighth overall pick by Charlotte.
“It was like watching Elvis Presley break through,” Harden said. “It was like seeing the Ed Sullivan Show. It was an amazing experience.”
Harden was on Eddie Sutton’s first team and it was Sutton who recruited Chapman.
“Coach was fair with Rex because he was a star,” Harden said. “I would go see (former UK teammate) Kenny Walker in New York (where he played for the Knicks) and I would tell him he had already been forgotten and fans had moved on to Rex. Kenny would just laugh and now they are good friends.
“Coach (Sutton) was not afraid to let a player get bigger than he was. He loved it when guys would blow up and get popular with fans. Not all coaches would do that. But Rex really was like watching Elvis blow up. It was mania all the time. I had never seen anything like it in college basketball.”
Unlike a lot of college players, Kentucky All-American punter Max Duffy of Australia does not fantasize about playing in the NFL. He would be happy for the opportunity to do that, but getting his master’s degree is his main priority going into his senior season at UK.
“ Playing in the NFL would be a dream but whether that is realistic or not I don’t know,” Duffy said. “Academics is why I am here. If I just got to work out for a team or punt in a preseason game, then my life dream would be completed. It would be awesome if I just could get a tryout.
“I am here to finish my master’s and I know I am probably not good enough to even make the NFL. I want to coach back home or be a sports psychologist working with elite athletes back home. Either one would be ideal and I am just thankful I got to come to Kentucky so I can hopefully make that happen. That’s why my education is my first priority.”
Kentucky football may still not get as much respect as it might deserve after winning 18 games over the last two years, but the respect is growing.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports recently named his top 100 players for the upcoming NFL season. Three former Wildcats were on the list starting with defensive lineman Za’Darius Smith of the Green Bay Packers at No. 28.
Smith had 13.5 quarterback sacks after signing with the Packers as a free agent and made the Pro Bowl.
“He showed off his versatility in his first season with the Packers rushing both from the inside and outside,” Prisco wrote.
Linebacker Bud Dupree, who recently signed a one-year deal worth nearly $16 million, was ranked 60th. He had 11.5 sacks in 2019 and the Steelers put the franchise tag on him to make sure they did not lose him.
But maybe the most impressive Cat on the list was Josh Allen at No. 88 after a fantastic rookie season with Jacksonville. He was so good he was named to the Pro Bowl after recording 10.5 sacks, the best of any rookie.
Quote of the Week: My heart goes out to the Moyers family. Gary will truly be missed. He was not only great at what he did, but a great person. He always checked in on me, sent my mom photos of me playing, and always knew how to make me laugh. Gary Moyers will truly be missed and never forgotten,” Kentucky junior basketball player Blair Green on the passing of Cats’ Pause photographer/writer/videographer Gary Moyers.
Quote of the Week 2: “He is a tough-minded kid. He is a competitor. I think that’s the thing that attracted me to him. Doing it for your Wildcats. I watched that guy tote that load and beat the Gators,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Benny Snell to John Calipari on “Coffee With Cal” on Facebook.
Quote of the Week 3: “I’ll remember him as one of the finest people I knew in my life. He was an outstanding human being, a great coach, a man who would do anything for anybody that he was able to do,” former UK Radio Network announcer Ralph Hacker on the passing of former UK coach Eddie Sutton.