“A lot of media,” said Jonathan Isaac with a chuckle and a smile as he described the last 24 hours of of his life. “It’s a lot. We’re moving fast and I guess we just gotta get acclimated, get comfortable.”
Isaac, the No. 6 pick in last night’s NBA Draft, then turned to his 2017 classmate and new Orlando Magic teammate, Wesley Iwundu, who echoed his sentiments to a room packed with local media.
Those 24 hours — a normal day to 99 percent of America — were undoubtedly the biggest moment in each of their young lives.
For Isaac, a rangy, 6-foot-11 combo forward from Florida State with a 9-foot-1 standing reach, the rise has been meteoric. He shot up recruiting boards during his senior year at IMG Academy in Bradenton, ending up at No. 8 overall in the 247Sports Composite rankings before attending Florida State.
This press conference was a bit of a homecoming for Isaac, who has spent the last seven years with his family in the Sunshine State.
“It feels great,” said Isaac on staying in Florida, “I got everybody that’s been supporting me (during) my entire journey in basketball in the same state as me, and being able to transfer that support in a short amount of time.”
Isaac is still very raw, but he made no bones about his readiness to play in the NBA. When asked about his most developed skill, his answer must have been music to Magic coach Frank Vogel’s ears.
“Honestly, the skill I feel most comfortable with is defense,” said Isaac. “You don’t have to know too much; defense is effort. And with Frank and his schemes that I don’t know, I’m willing to just step right in and learn.”
For Iwundu, Orlando’s second-round pick, the story started in Houston, Texas and built gradually through four years at Kansas State. The 6-foot-7 forward, who was selected by Orlando at No. 33 overall, said that staying in college helped him developed into the player he is today.
“I think that was the beautiful thing about staying all four years,” said Iwundu. “Growing as a person on and off the court, and just coming within myself and finding out (about) my game. By my fourth year I was very comfortable doing many things.”year I was very comfortable doing many things.”
Iwundu says that this unheralded status has fueled his progressive rise. He came off the bench in his first game at K-State, notched a double-double, and never saw the pine again – setting the Wildcats’ career record for starts with 124.
“It’s just always been using the underdog mentality,” said Iwundu, “and coming into college, I put in the work, put in the effort to be able to give myself a chance to start after that first game.”
“I’ve been carrying that (mentality) up until now and it’ll continue, and I think just fitting in with the Magic, bringing that to the team...just bringing the pressure, helping guys get better each and every day – that’s what I expect to do.”
One big question for Isaac will be his compatibility and fit with fellow forward Aaron Gordon, arguably the most valuable player currently on the Magic roster. Early last season, Gordon was shifted from his natural position of power forward to a more perimeter-oriented swingman. The experiment would prove a failure, as Gordon shot just north of 42 percent from the field before the Serge Ibaka trade shifted him back ip to the four spot.
“We adjust our system much the way the whole league has been doing right now,” said Vogel. “There’s a lot of switching flexibility and interchangeable parts on the wing – 2, 3, 4. Both of those guys are going to fit that mold. To me, you need a starting shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, and a backup shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, and all six of those guys have to be able to do similar things. The length, that athleticism and shooting and offensive versatility is important for all of those guys.”
Both Isaac and Iwundu show the vision of the newly-minted Magic front office staff, captained by rookie president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman. The pair of prospects seem to be cut from the same cloth: long, athletic, humble, and unafraid to do the dirty work on the defensive end – a staple of Frank Vogel’s Indiana Pacers teams.
Though only time will tell with regards to its success, it’s clear that the Magic at least have a unified plan, and these two players will be the first building blocks of the new regime in Orlando.