Northside's Joe signs with Arkansas

By: Chip Souza
Published: November 9, 2017 at 1 a.m. - Updated: November 9, 2017 at 1 a.m.
Fort Smith Northside guard Isaiah Joe (center) shares a laugh Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, with his grandmother, Emma Watts (from right); grandfather, Lonnie Watts; grandmother Ferry Simmons; and grandfather, Douglas Simmons; before signing to play basketball with Arkansas during a signing ceremony at the school.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Fort Smith Northside guard Isaiah Joe (center) shares a laugh Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, with his grandmother, Emma Watts (from right); grandfather, Lonnie Watts; grandmother Ferry Simmons; and grandfather, Douglas Simmons; before signing to play basketball with Arkansas during a signing ceremony at the school.

FORT SMITH -- Isaiah Joe may not understand the magnitude of what simply signing his name on a dotted line Wednesday means to his community, but it certainly hit home with many of those on hand in Kaundart Fieldhouse.

Joe, a 6-foot-4 senior at Fort Smith Northside, became the first Grizzlies boys basketball player in more than three decades to sign a college basketball national letter of intent with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The sharp-shooting Joe, who knocked down 121 3-pointers last season in leading Northside to the Class 7A state championship, is the first Grizzlies player to sign with Arkansas since Keith Wilson in the mid-1980s, said Northside boys basketball coach Eric Burnett.

"Fort Smith hasn't had anybody sign with the Razorbacks in a long time," Burnett said prior to Wednesday's signing ceremony. "I was looking that up today. It's been a long time. This is great for the community, it's great for Northside High School, it's great for Isaiah and his family to have this opportunity.

"I can promise you we are very excited about this opportunity for him."

Burnett, who starred at Northside himself as a player, spoke in front of a large gathering of students, administrators, coaches, family and Joe's family members. Burnett said basketball was just a part of who Joe is.

Burnett cited Joe's involvement with a number of groups affiliated with Fort Smith schools and lauded Joe for his excellence in the classroom.

"I've never once had a teacher tell me anything bad about him," Burnett said. "Isaiah takes care of business, and that's one of the main reasons he's signing a scholarship today."

Longtime Northside girls basketball coach Rickey Smith said often when he goes to the gym at night or on the weekends, Joe is usually already there shooting and working on his skills.

"If he sees me at the door, he sprints to the door to open it," Smith said. "He helps little old ladies to their car after games. This kid is a great player, but he's a way better person."

Joe joins a loaded class of in-state recruits for Mike Anderson's Razorbacks program. Most of them were members of the Arkansas Hawks AAU program and wanted to stay together in college, Joe said.

"The players that are coming here, we have great chemistry," Joe said. "We know how each other plays and we feed off of each other on the court. It wasn't really a group decision where we all decided this at one time, but we talked with our coaches and thought this was the best for us."

Joe, who will slide over to run the point for Northside this season after playing at the No. 2 for the past two seasons, averaged 18.8 points per game as a junior to go along with 4.5 rebounds. Rivals.com rates Joe a four-star prospect, and 247Sports.com ranks him the No. 1 overall player in Arkansas and No. 91 nationally.

Burnett said what drew the attention of Arkansas coaches to Joe was his selfless play at both ends of the court, specifically the defensive end for his summer team, where he averaged 16 points per game in the Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas last summer.

"Coach (Melvin) Watkins said he was most impressed with Isaiah in taking charges and helping his team in other areas besides being a scorer," Burnett said. "Everyone knows he's one of the best shooters to come out of here, but Coach Watkins told me it was Isaiah's total game that they wanted."

Anderson said Joe brings a high basketball IQ to the program and is looking forward to Joe becoming a Razorback next season.

"When it's all said and done, he will have a chance to be a special player for us," Anderson said in a release by the university. "He can really handle the basketball, has unlimited range shooting the ball, good vision and is sneaky athletic. He makes an impact on both ends of the floor and comes from a winning culture."

Sports on 11/09/2017

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