Scott Isaak, Almira/Coulee- Hartline basketball coach, third-generation farmer and raconteur, likes to tell this story about his then-fourth-grade son, Derek.
“He eventually wandered up to this thing called Hoopfest,” Scott said. “He was playing in a coed league with his niece. It was 98 and 96 degrees with no shade. They get to the semifinals and lo and behold we look at this team with the local name, ‘Stockton.’ ”
The team featured John Stockton’s daughter Lindsay, who currently is in Tacoma with State 4A participant Gonzaga Prep.
Derek was tossing in shots from everywhere, and after they’d played each other again in the finals, John came up to talk to Derek.
“He has no freaking idea who John is,” Scott said. “I tell him, ‘Do you know who that was?’ He gets tears in his eyes, runs over and shakes John’s hand. Looking back I (realize) Derek was a pretty good ballplayer, but had no social recognition.”
Maybe, like John Stockton, he isn’t particularly outgoing. Likely it’s because Derek, now a senior at ACH, is focused on what lies ahead.
During a preseason interview last fall previewing football, well prior to helping ACH reach the state 8-man football final, he professed his desire to play basketball in college.
“My dad has always told me, ‘If you are good enough they’ll find you,’ ” he said.
Last Friday, Isaak scored 34 points as the Warriors won their way into his fourth State 1B tournament, beginning Thursday at the Spokane Arena. He revealed then that he’s being wooed by Division II schools Seattle Pacific, Northwest Nazarene and Western Washington.
Not surprisingly, he hopes to play at the latter for head coach Brad Jackson, his uncle and ex-Washington State standout.
What made the Almira/Coulee-Hartline sharpshooter into one of the most prolific scorers in 1B history?
“Thousands and thousands of shots,” Scott said. “He can put it on the deck, defend, pass, is a pure shooter and has an incredible work ethic off the court.”
Guard him straight up, as Colton discovered in the regional final, and he goes by you for a layup or burns you with a sweet step-back jumper. Lay off and he’ll kill you from beyond the arc.
Derek has scored 634 points this year at a 28.0 per game clip. His dad said he will surpass 2,300 points for his career, and already holds the career tournament scoring record with 281 points. He’s also one of four Eastern Washington players nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team, Scott said.
What more would you expect from the grandson of a coach – Roland Halle, his mother Jeannie’s dad, is a member of the University of Washington Hall of Fame and played on the Huskies’ 1953 NCAA basketball Final Four team – the son of a coach and the nephew of a coach.
“When you talk about athletic talent, it’s absolutely not on my side,” Scott quips.
“He’s the best ballplayer I’ve ever had,” Scott said. “That would be a lot easier to say if he wasn’t my son.”
Last fall Derek said people would ask him how he could have done had he played at a bigger school.
“I’m, like, if you’re from a bigger school more people would look at you, but Almira/Coulee-Hartline has been a blast for me,” he said.
In truth, Derek hasn’t wanted for basketball coaches’ attention. He plays on an AAU team (the Eastern Washington Elite) that participated in tournaments in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The small-school basketball star aspires to bigger things.
But before he leaves the Warriors, who have finished third twice and seventh during his career, Derek Isaak is hoping this weekend to go out with a flourish.