Isaac Humphries: The future is here

Isaac Humphries is a 7’0’ foot center from Sydney. At 18 years of age, he has the potential to do great things. He also represents the changing culture of Australian basketball.

With the NCAA college basketball season only in its infancy, perhaps there has never been a time where Australia has been so well represented.

The 2016/17 season sees many Australians suiting up for some of America’s biggest programs. There are a number of Australians who play for teams ranked in the latest Associated Press college basketball top 25. Namely Jack White (Duke), Keanu Pinder (Arizona), and Louisville duo Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang who are also both starters for the Cardinals. Remarkably, seven Aussies are currently playing for Saint Mary’s who are ranked 12th in the nation. The famed Kentucky Wildcat who are off to an unbeaten start feature Humphries, who last season was the youngest player across college basketball.

The Pick and Roll spoke to Humphries, discussing his increased role this season as well as his personal expectations and goals for the future.

The Kentucky Experience

When mentioning the Kentucky Wildcats, Coach John Calipari, or ‘Coach Cal’ as he’s often referred to, is always a point of interest. Humphries explained the impact Calipari has had on his game as well as the coaching staff as a whole.

“You learn a lot, it’s intense and he’s very knowledgeable so you always listen to what he has to say," shared Humphries.

“I learnt a lot from him last year, but a lot of my development has also come from me changing my body and working with my position coaches to better develop my skills.”

Being one of the biggest programs in the country, Kentucky attracts a lot of attention and has some of the most passionate fans in America.

“It’s very overwhelming at times.” Said Humphries. “It’s a lot of fun.

"The fans are crazy, they’re the best fans in the country in terms of college basketball. They support us, they love us, they treat us like royalty, we can’t go anywhere without being loved by them. It’s obviously very overwhelming but it comes with being a Kentucky basketball player.”

Another Year of Growth

Now in his sophomore year, Humphries is hoping to take a step forward and see an increased role with the team.

“It’s gonna be a really fun season, we have a great team," explained Humphries. "I’m expecting to do a lot more this year and have a bigger role."

When asked what he foresees his role to be this reason, Humphries was clearly seeking more responsibility.

"Somewhat of a leader, I know they’ve been talking to me about talking to the guys more," he added. "Stepping up as more of a leader for the younger guys since I’ve been here for a year, and that’s considered a veteran here at Kentucky.”

After Coach Cal stated in the off season that the 7 foot Humphries is Kentucky’s most improved player, the hype surrounding the youngster has begun to build.

“I wanna show people that all the hype and talk about improvement is true, and just kinda give them a little bit of a different look," said Humphries. "Because obviously last year I showed them a little glimpse of what I had, but this year is definitely gonna be a different year for me. I obviously wanna emerge as a key player for the team because it doesn’t just help me, it helps everyone and that’s what we’re about here.”

Entering his sophomore season at still just 18 years of age, Humphries was also the youngest player in NCAA college basketball last year. Humphries explained what it was like being the youngest player on the squad.

“It had its challenges, I had to obviously play behind seniority and people who knew the system better than me. In that sense it was a challenge, I was obviously young, my mind wasn’t drilled the way it needed to be and the way everyone else’s was. I learnt a lot in the last year, now my mentality and my mindset has matured greatly.”

Listening to Humphries speak, you soon realise that he already possesses great maturity even at just 18 years of age.

While many would struggle with moving to a different country at such a young age. Humphries explained his desire to play basketball and improve was too great for any homesickness to creep in.

“It wasn’t that difficult to be honest (Talking about moving to the U.S.A) I’d already moved to the AIS before I came to America, so I was used to being away from home, I still see my family. I mean it’s really not that challenging at all. We’re very consumed here with the things we do daily, so you really don’t get time to miss home. We’re focused and very driven. I have one goal and that’s to be the best basketball player and the best human being I can. I really don’t look at anything else when I’m in that mindset.”

The Opportunities that Await

Having had a very successful junior career representing Australia. Which included a remarkable performance at the Under 17 FIBA World Cup where he was named to the all-tournament team and scored a record 41 points against Canada. The Pick and Roll asked Humphries about his ambitions of playing for the Boomers.

Humphries explained that he was aiming to play for the Boomers and would love to play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, however it’s not something that is in his control.

"I mean that’s really got nothing to do with me, it’s kinda the coaches decision. I’m obviously ready whenever they need me, provided I’m available and not committed to something else. But as soon as they call upon me I’ll happily consider it and go from there.”

The Kentucky basketball program is one of the most successful in the nation, producing many NBA stars such as the likes of Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. Humphries understands the magnitude of the opportunity that confronts him in attending UK.

When asked if his goal is to reach the NBA, Humphries replied emphatically.

“Yes, you know whether it happens at the end of this year, the end of next year. Whenever it happens, obviously the goals the NBA. I know that’s not very common in Australia, so the mentality’s a little different. But the environment I’m in now, that’s the mindset that everyone has, definitely that is where I’m aiming to be.”

It's this vision, mindset and work ethic that has Isaac Humphries at the forefront of this new generation of Australian players, who are heavily recruited and are able to gain scholarships to the most prestigious programs. The days of Aussie ballers being considered the ‘unknown’ international prospect may be over. Humphries’ lofty expectations of himself and the increasing number of Aussies in the NBA, is changing the culture and reputation of Australian basketball worldwide for the better.