Topeka — When freshman Issac McBride endured his first workout as a member of the University of Kansas basketball program earlier this week, the newcomer from Little Rock, Ark., immediately recognized he had reached a completely different level of competition.
This was faster. More intense. Higher expectations.
Still, the 6-foot, 180-pound guard didn’t let it all overwhelm him. While he agreed with fellow freshman Tristan Enaruna that the experience was “eye-opening,” McBride figured out a natural strategy to growing comfortable with every aspect of it.
“Once you make a play, you start to make more plays and more plays,” McBride told reporters Thursday, while working at Brett Ballard’s Washburn basketball camp, at Lee Arena. “The eye-opening experience, you kind of get over that and feel like, ‘OK, we’re playing basketball.’ And of course they’re going to be better athletes and guys that have amazing skill. It soon fades away.”
Rated by Rivals as a four-star prospect in KU’s 2019 signing class, the standout from Baptist Prep (Ark.) said delivering winning plays on the defensive end of the floor also boosted his confidence, and the shock factor that accompanies being a freshman basketball player for Kansas began to feel less daunting.
Since arriving in Lawrence with his family on Saturday night, McBride said the earliest stages of his KU basketball experience have centered on getting acclimated, as well as “a lot of drills,” primarily involving ball handling and shooting.
Throughout the first week of June, Kansas basketball players drove over to Topeka to help out with Washburn University head coach Brett Ballard's basketball camp.
“Separate the guards from the bigs and just get all polished up,” he said of his workouts so far, “trying to get our skills right for the upcoming season.”
As he works toward his eventual college debut, McBride hopes his background playing both point guard and shooting guard as a high schooler will come in handy. At Baptist Prep he alternated between the positions.
“It really wasn’t a transition,” he said of playing the one or the two in the backcourt. “Basketball is basketball. So once you get out there, really the position difference between those two is just making sure at the one that you’re getting more people involved. Also you have to be a scoring threat. And at the two you have to make sure that you’re just giving your defender all type of chaos with the decisions and the shots that you take and make.”
One of the freshman’s newest teammates, Ochai Agbaji, said from what he has seen out of McBride so far, including video highlights he watched of the Arkansas standout’s prep career once he committed to KU, Agbaji thinks McBride is a “tough” guard.
“Kind of reminds me a little bit of Devon (Dotson),” Agbaji added, “how he gets downhill but can also shoot it, too. He’s got good explosion on his shot, so he can jump pretty high, which is kind of hard to defend quick off the bounce. I think that’s one of his special traits.”
Asked to describe his game, McBride also pointed to a skill set he has developed through the years, shooting off the dribble.
“If I get hot I feel like I can keep going and continue it for stretches,” McBride offered. “Someone who wants to be out there and is a competitor and tries to compete to the best of his ability.”
While he considers scoring a large part of what he has to offer, the likely backup point guard for KU in 2019-20 quickly began talking up his floor general attributes, as well.
“Someone who’s team oriented and tries to think about the team first. And if someone is hot, get them the ball,” McBride went on. “And if someone is discouraged, try to encourage them to be able to play to the best of their ability.”
McBride didn’t categorize himself as a traditional pass-first point guard, but he didn’t paint that as a negative, either.
Of course, all that really matters to McBride is doing what his head coach, Bill Self, asks of him as a guard.
So what does Self want to see from the new Jayhawk?
“Coach, really, he just told me to be myself and told me to do what I’m comfortable doing. He hasn’t really sat me down. We’ll, of course, have individual meetings and I’ll get more of a feel for what he wants me to do,” McBride said. “But he’s just told me to come in and be who I am as a player.”
And while that may prove true, McBride also understands Self and his assistants will also dissect everything about the freshman’s game and point out all of his flaws.
“He’ll tell me what I need to work on there,” the freshman added. “And then my strengths, he wants me to continue to work on those, so that those can shine really well.”