Isaiah Briscoe is not the norm in Lexington. A highly rated high school recruit, he is back for a sophomore season. After averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, the New Jersey native decided to return to Lexington for another year. He is expected to lead another talented group of newcomers on a Kentucky team ranked No. 2 in the preseason by the Associated Press. Briscoe focused on improving his shot in the offseason. As a freshman, he hit just 43.9 percent (132-301) of his field goal attempts and just 13.5 percent (5-37) of his three-point attempts. The Cats tip off their season on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena, hosting Stephen F. Austin.
How much better is your shot?
A lot better. I still have got a ways to go. Still improving, but I’m in the gym, just working. It’s my fault that the question is being asked. Don’t run from it – fix it and embrace it.
Was there a time when you thought you might turn pro?
Yeah, and it was starting with the first NBA workout. I think I did well in all of them. I got positive feedback from all of the teams, and there was a point in time when I thought about going to the NBA. I didn’t want to rush it and I knew coming back here that I would come back with open arms from the coaching staff. I spoke with Cal, spoke with KP, and they said, “You laid your groundwork down for this year coming up. You showed them what you could do, now you come back for a second year, you do what you got to do. The same time next year, everything will just play itself out.” I liked the way that sounded, so I came back – and I trust those guys 100 percent with my future – and I’m back here for another year. I’m excited I came back.
When you are that close to experiencing it, how mind-boggling are the NBA salaries?
It’s what you work hard for. If you love the game and you work hard at it, that’s the reward. You get paid millions of dollars, but it doesn’t stop there. Then it’s about producing in the NBA and continuing to make those millions and millions of dollars. You’ve just got to continue to work hard when nobody is looking. Continue to put the work in, and everything plays itself out.
Do you have any kind of relationship with Kyrie Irving?
Yeah, that’s my cousin.
How often do you talk?
We talk whenever. He was busy during the playoffs, so we didn’t really talk or anything. But I speak to him a lot.
What is it like when your cousin hits the game-winning shot in game seven of the NBA Finals?
I was just watching – I was excited. I was jumping in my seat and all that. More importantly, I was happy because that was his first championship, and I thought last year they were going to win it but he went down. I was happy.
What kind of advice has he given you about this process?
Just stay levelheaded. Stay the course, continue to work hard, don’t get complacent and everything will fall into place.
Are you looking forward to taking a leadership role?
What will go into that for you?
I’m going to show everybody that I can lead the team with these young guys coming in and with what Tyler taught me last year – just being around him – how to be a leader and how to lead by example. I feel as though with me coming back for my second year, Coach expects me to be a leader, and I feel as though I want to take on the challenge. I want to be the leader of the team.
Is that a comfortable role for you?
I’m not new to being a leader. My high school team, I led them my last year, we won a championship. Back in AAU, when we won Peach Jam, I had a group of young guys. VT