Long-time Arkansas Hawks AAU basketball coach Bill Ingram started to see a familiar face — that of University of Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend — at his team’s games during the July recruiting period.
Eventually, Townsend was joined in the stands by KU head coach Bill Self in studying every move of 6-foot-1 Hawks point guard/shooting guard Issac McBride.
“When they got interested in him,” Ingram said of KU’s coaches, “I said, ‘They are trying to get another Frank Mason. That’s Frank Mason except he shoots it better.’’’
Ingram said in a Tuesday interview that indeed, McBride, who is ranked No. 109 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com, reminds him of second-year Sacramento Kings guard Mason, consensus national college player of the year at KU in 2016-17.
“I watch him and say, ‘That’s Frank Mason except he’s got more range. He can shoot it better, can shoot it deeper,’” Ingram said of McBride, who on Monday committed to play basketball at Mason’s alma mater.
He chose the Jayhawks over Auburn and Virginia.
McBride — he first emerged as a major college prospect after averaging 24.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals last season as a junior at Little Rock’s Arkansas Baptist Prep — earned a scholarship offer from blueblood KU after his stellar performance at the Fab 48 tournament in July in Las Vegas.
That’s also when Tennessee, Arkansas, TCU, Oklahoma State and SMU stepped up the interest.
“He was unbelievable. He had a stretch there in July he was shooting probably 75, 80 percent,” Ingram said of McBride, who is known for his 3-point shooting. He hit 45 percent of his threes (51 percent of all shots) his junior year of high school.
“He had 27 (against No. 1-ranked Vernon Carey’s Each 1 Teach 1 team in Vegas). He lit them up. He took only 11, 12 shots to get that 27,” Ingram explained. “There were a bunch of great players on the floor. Scottie Barnes (No. 4 rated player in Class of 2020) was in that game. Clearly Issac was was the best guard on the floor. Coach Self could have been there watching any one of them. Just the look on his face when he was watching Issac … I thought he might be there to see Issac. I was right.”
McBride earned that KU scholarship offer by excelling in many areas, Ingram said.
“We always knew he could score. He turned out to be a great defender. You are getting a guy who can guard and make shots and he loves taking big shots, in crunch time. You cannot break him mentally,” Ingram said emphatically.
If there’s one skill that stands out — it has to be McBride’s long-range shooting ability.
“He can really shoot that long ball from anywhere on the floor and the most impressive thing is he is shooting contested shots. He doesn’t need a whole lot of space to get that shot off,” Ingram said.
“He’s just a big-time player. He fits their program from what I’ve seen watching Kansas over the years. Everybody around here is sad he didn’t decide to stay home and play, but we’re happy for him he gets a chance to go play for a coach like coach Self at Kansas.”
McBride has been a major reason Arkansas Baptist Prep has won three consecutive state titles.
“On the basketball floor, he can do it all,” said Arkansas Baptist Prep coach Steve Miller. “He is a great leader. We want the ball in his hands. If we need a big basket, he is the one that wants the ball in his hands. He is very unselfish. He will get his teammates involved all over the place.”
McBride also is “a man of character,” Miller added.
“Issac comes to practice every day to bring it. It doesn’t matter if we are doing drills or fullcourt scrimmage, or we are just warming up. He brings it. It’s special to coach this young man day in and day out and just watching him around the school. He puts the work in the academic area and is a leader in our school,” Miller said.
In fact, Miller called McBride, “a coach’s dream. He’s the kind of young man you maybe get to coach once or twice in your career. He’s well-loved around this school, a leader.”
Ingram — who is also chairman of the Arkansas Hawks, now named after former Hawks standout/NBA veteran Joe Johnson — went so far as to say: “He’s exactly the kind of kid you’d want dating your daughter.”
McBride mentioned his faith several times in a conference call Monday with reporters.
“He calls his mother every morning and they pray together,” Ingram said, adding: “He is arguably the best all-around kid we’ve had in our program. We had Joe Johnson, a great kid who has played in the NBA for 18 years. We had Ronnie Brewer in our program, the 14th pick in the draft. As far as ‘Mackey’ (McBride’s nickname given him because he looks and acts much like his paternal grandfather, Mackey), he’s the complete package.”
McBride said Monday that it’s important to him to play in an atmosphere “where I can worship God freely, have the opportunity not just only to play basketball but be around people I know will help me grow spiritually and as a man. I will always want in a college what I have here at home.”
McBride is the second player to orally commit to KU in the recruiting Class of 2019. Christian Braun, a 6-6 senior guard from Blue Valley Northwest, announced for KU on Sept. 17. KU has filled its allotment of scholarships, but plans on signing additional players because several non-seniors are likely to consider entering the 2019 NBA Draft.