Joe takes U-turn & re-enters 2020 NBA Draft, forgoing remainder of Hogs career; statement from Eric Musselman

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A statement from Eric Musselman on Isaiah Joe’s Decision:

“We will always support our players when they decide to chase their NBA dream. We will continue to help Isaiah in any way we can and wish him nothing but the best. Zai has cemented his legacy at Arkansas and will forever be a Razorback.”

Original story:

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — Fifteen days after withdrawing from the 2020 NBA Draft, Arkansas junior guard Isaiah Joe re-entered the draft on Sunday for a second time while forgoing the final two years of his career as a Razorback.

Joe submitted his paperwork to re-enter the draft on Sunday and he also informed head coach Eric Musselman of his decision on the same day. Joe originally declared for the draft in late April before withdrawing on Aug. 1, two days before the NCAA’s deadline for underclassmen to withdraw and return to school.

Joe’s U-turn was driven by growing uncertainty surrounding the resumption of college sports due to the coronavirus pandemic — just last week, for example, the Big 10 and Pac-12 cancelled or suspended fall sports until at least the spring semester — while at the same time the NBA has proven for weeks it can play games safely inside its “bubble.” Combined with mounting positive feedback Joe received during interviews with NBA teams spanning the months he was in the draft pool it provided him with an unprecedented opportunity to go back into the draft for a second time.

“Due to the COVID-19 virus and the unprecedented cancellation of fall sports by several major college conferences in the past week, I believe it is in my best interest to forego the remainder of my college eligibility and re-enter the NBA draft in time for the league’s Aug. 17 deadline for underclassmen to declare,” Joe said in a statement that he released via Twitter on Monday.

“My announcement on Aug. 1 to return to school for another season as a Razorback was made with whole-hearted excitement and sincerity, but a lot has happened in a short period of time since then to increase the uncertainty that college sports will be played this season.”

The NCAA and NBA have different deadlines for underclassmen as it relates to the draft, and due to the pandemic those deadlines were pushed out to dates that overlapped with the start of summer training camp for many colleges, including Arkansas. The original date for underclassmen to declare for the draft was April 26 and the NCAA’s original date for underclassmen to withdraw was June 3, the latter of which was eventually pushed out to Aug. 3. The NBA, however, had it’s own deadline date for underclassmen to declare for the draft, which was June 15 before that was eventually pushed out to Aug. 17 (today). 

The NBA Draft was rescheduled, too, from late June to Oct. 16.

Six days before he announced he would return to Arkansas, Joe was among 60 or so draft-eligible players to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine, but a source said he did not accept that invitation by the July 31 deadline to do so, opting instead to return to school. Joe rejoined teammates at the start of week three of Musselman’s training camp practices, and prior to that he was consistently taking part in strength-and-conditioning training going back to early June when the upperclassmen returned to Fayetteville for voluntary workouts.

Before returning to school, Joe was projected anywhere from the fringes of the middle of the first round to not being drafted at all when looking at various analyst mock drafts, big boards, and opinions made available for public consumption. But based on perhaps more reliable data and feedback (from NBA team interviews, combine invite, and underclassmen advisory committee reports) as well as insight from multiple sources, including some NBA scouts who spoke with, Joe’s most likely draft landing spots appeared to be early-to-mid second round with an outside shot at a late first-round selection. 

Uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic has cut both ways as the viability of the ’20-21 college season has been in question with the same being true of the NBA’s draft combine; individual workouts, meetings, and medical examinations with NBA teams; and the NBA Summer League and G-League.

Joe finished his Arkansas career as arguably the best three-point shooter in the SEC spanning his two seasons.

He earned SEC All Freshman honors in ’18-19 when he was the first Hog rookie to start every game since Portis while averaging 13.9 points and setting the school record for made three-pointers (113 at a 41.4% clip), Joe was a preseason All SEC pick as a sophomore and through the mid-point of the season he was named 1 of 10 finalists for the postseason Jerry West Award, which honors the top shooting guard in the nation. 

But he was hampered by a mid-season right knee injury, affecting his play in five games and causing him to miss six more. In the end, Joe played in 26 games in ’19-20 and finished the season as the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.9 points per game (7th in the SEC) and the league’s leader in made triples (94) despite missing those six games due to the injury. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 36.2 minutes. He led the team in charges for a second straight season, and he was 81-of-91 from the free throw line for 89.0% (the efficiency led the team and was top 3 in the SEC). He was once named SEC Player of the Week. Arkansas finished 20-12, but the Hogs were 17-4 with a healthy Joe in the lineup.

Joe ends his career at Arkansas with 910 career points and 207 career made 3-pointers (7th most in school history) at a 37.1% clip in 60 career games (he started all but once in the games he played in as a Hog).

Linked below are recent stories detailing Isaiah Joe’s NBA Draft process …

* From Aug. 1 and July 27 … Joe withdraws from draft and process affecting his decision …

* From July 23 … Joe out during first week of training camp …

* From July 21 and July 5 … Joe’s draft process updates …

* From April 20, 2020 … Joe declares for NBA draft …

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