Jonathan Isaac is staying home. The IMG Academy product and Florida State University standout who has called Naples home since age 10 is headed to the Magic after Orlando scooped up the forward with the No. 6 pick of the 2017 NBA draft Friday.
Isaac’s selection led to a brief eruption inside Evie’s Tavern and Grill on 53rd Street West, where the IMG basketball staff watched the draft play out on a projection screen near to where Isaac spent a year and a half of his high school career training in Bradenton. Now his NBA career will take him about 130 miles away, a two-hour drive up Interstate 75 and Interstate 4.
Isaac is the highest basketball draft pick in IMG Academy history and only their third first-round pick. He’s the first IMG player to be picked since Satnam Singh Bhamara was taken during the second round of the 2015 NBA draft.
“He’s a Florida kid, played in Florida in high school, played in college and now he’s playing pro,” said John Mahoney, the Ascenders’ post-graduate head coach. “I’m very excited. I told him when he got here, I said, ‘Jon, I don’t want anything from you. All I ever ask you for is tickets to the game when you play in the NBA.’ ”
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Isaac’s family still lives in Naples even though his journey has taken him around the state, including stops in Bradenton, Tallahassee and Hollywood. Mahoney joked earlier during the week that Isaac’s mother would buy a home in Orlando to be close to her son.
Mahoney sent Isaac a text with his three most important bits of advice right after the pick was made official: Plan three years at a time, latch on with a veteran and hire a chef.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Isaac walked to the stage in a blue plaid suit — relatively modest by draft standards — and immediately fielded a question from an ESPN reporter about getting to stay in Florida.
“It means everything to me,” Isaac said.
Isaac should have a chance to contribute relatively early, too. He averaged 12 points per game for the Seminoles last season while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and nearly 35 percent from 3-point range. His calling card has become his defense, which led some scouts to consider him among the two or three best defensive players in the draft.
His skill set is unique. A late growth spurt during high school turned him from a relatively big guard into a 6-foot-10 forward with guard skills. Orlando’s new front office, led by new general manager John Hammond, has experience developing players such as Isaac from its time with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Bucks. Isaac could be the next project in that line.
“I feel like I’m coming home to somebody who knows who I am and what I’m capable of, and where I can be in the future,” Isaac said during a post-draft press conference at the Barclays Center in New York. “I think that’s huge because my progression is going to be different than a lot of other players, and I know I have a lot of untapped potential and I feel like I went to the perfect team to untap it.”