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Isaiah Briscoe had no problem with returning to Kentucky, ready to step into leadership role

By Keith Taylor
KyForward senior sports writer

Isaiah Briscoe is ready to be a leader.

The Kentucky sophomore guard will be counted on to take the reins vacated by Tyler Ulis next season and Briscoe knows what it takes to provide the necessary guidance to help lead the Wildcats.

“(I’ve) just got to lead by example,” Briscoe said Wednesday. “That’s one thing, and that’s on and off the court. These freshmen came in and they look up to me. And, you know some of the guys last year look up to me and come up to me for questions like that, so my main focus this year is lead a young group, and lead by example on and off the court.”

 Isaiah Briscoe talks to the media Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum (Keith Taylor Photo)

Isaiah Briscoe talks to the media Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum (Keith Taylor Photo)

Briscoe waited until the last minute to make his final decision on staying in the NBA Draft or returning for a second season at Kentucky. Briscoe used the new NBA rule “to the best of my ability” and worked out for six teams before meeting with Kentucky coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne to come to a conclusion regarding his future.

For Briscoe, the determining factor was “security” and admitted he “never had a problem coming back to Kentucky.”

“It (the conversation with Payne) made a lot of sense and I want to feel secure,” Briscoe said. “And, what he was saying was, by this time next year you should only want to focus on getting better. You don’t want to worry about getting a guaranteed contract like that or anything. So, I think that played a key role into me coming back to school.”

Briscoe worked out for six teams and said “the feedback was good.” Although he struggled from long range last season, his workouts were convincing. Briscoe said making his final decision on coming back or staying in the draft was “kind of hard, because I was doing so well in the workouts.”

“I think that the conversation me and KP had brought everything to the light, and it made it more obvious that it was good for me to come back to school,” he said.

As a freshman, Briscoe, who returns as Kentucky’s leading scorer, averaged 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds a game last year. A noted scorer in high school, Briscoe shot 44 percent from the field, but just made 5 of 37 shots from long range and shot just 46 percent from the free-throw line. Briscoe learned through his workouts with NBA teams that “shooting is important.”

“They said my shot was better than they thought,” he said. “But, going back to school and showing them that I can shoot consistently wouldn’t hurt me at all.”

Surrounding by incoming guards Malik Monk and De’Andre Fox, Briscoe isn’t worried about scoring to improve his NBA pedigree. Briscoe is focused on “running the team.”

“That doesn’t mean score all the points,” he said. “It just means making sure that everything is in order. Be a second coach on the court. You know, build a better relationship with Coach Cal. And, just lead the young guys. Like a floor general.”

Briscoe admitted it wasn’t easy to make the adjustment from a point guard to the perimeter last season and added that it was a “struggle in the beginning.”

“I had to get used to it,” he said. “Not too many people can do it. But, I accepted the role. And, as a winner, I just want to do whatever it takes for my team to win. They needed me to play defense and grab rebounds and that’s exactly what I did.”

In addition to becoming a team leader, Briscoe has been checking in with Calipari to make sure he’s on the same page as his coach.

“We’ve been meeting probably like once a week or we will text maybe twice a week — just to make sure everyone is in check and everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “He looks to me to make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. So, I think that he is trusting me more than last year. I don’t want to let him down so I am just out here doing whatever I have to do to make sure that the team is fine.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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