LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe was told he needs to work on his game to be a first-round NBA draft pick, and that’s fine with him.
Sure, his dream is playing in the NBA. But there are worst things than helping the Wildcats chase a national championship with another loaded roster.
“I never had a problem coming back to Kentucky,” Briscoe said Wednesday.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore returns as the Wildcats’ leading scorer after averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He’s coming off a spring of working out for NBA teams under the new rule that allowed underclassmen to submit their names and participate in the combine and separate tryouts but return to school as long as they don’t sign with an agent.
Unlike former Wildcat teammates Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere – whose names are expected to be called on June 23 in Brooklyn, New York – Briscoe’s pro prospects weren’t as promising. He wasn’t invited to last month’s combine and wasn’t projected as a selection, still he waited until the May 25 deadline to announce his return for a second season.
“In a way it was kind of hard because I was doing so well in the workouts,” Briscoe said of his decision after talking with coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne. “But I think the conversation me and K.P. had brought everything to light and it was best for me to come back to school.”
NBA scouts offered Briscoe feedback to ponder as well.
“Shooting is important,” he said with a laugh.
Briscoe struggled with consistency last season, particularly from long range. He averaged 44 percent from the field but made just 5 of 37 attempts (14 percent) from behind the arc and shot just 46 percent from the foul line.
Briscoe said NBA personnel told him they like his shot but suggest he work on consistency. That’s been his priority since the combine, a facet Calipari mentioned last month.
“With Isaiah, the whole thing comes back to just shooting the ball,” he said. “They know the other skills he has translates, including physically, defensively and rebounding. … So, he’s just got to be a more consistent shooter.”
Though highly touted De’Aaron Fox joins Kentucky’s backcourt next season, Briscoe is preparing for the point guard role after playing as a wing last season. There he expects the “real Isaiah” will emerge, one he hopes will get him on some NBA teams’ radars next spring.
“I don’t think the NBA is going anywhere,” he said, “and coming back to Kentucky for another year to develop as a person on and off the court will only help me.”