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Cementing His Legacy: Isaiah Stevens Returns for One Final Season

May 26, 2023

Isaiah Stevens’ return to Colorado State for his super season created by the COVID19 pandemic is more than a chance to cement his legacy as an alltime great point guard but offers him an even greater opportunity. Which is to take his individual skills to facilitate the development of a tournament team in 2023-24 and also to lay a deeper foundation for the program to grow beyond the upcoming season.

What will his individual legacy be?

Stevens already is the alltime leader in assists at CSU and is currently second in scoring. If you extrapolate where he might end up, based on his current career scoring and assist averages, he will finish with an assist total nearly 50% higher than second place Ryan Yoder. And finish first in scoring, nearly 300 points ahead of current leading scorer Pat Durham.

it will easily put him in the conversation of best CSU Mens basketball player of all time, alongside Durham and Bill Green. It will easily establish him as the best of the most recent generation.

And then there’s the Mountain West Conference. Stevens is currently 15th in career scoring for all games and 5th in scoring in MWC games. Second in assists in all games and first in MWC games. Extrapolating his averages, Isaiah Stevens will finish as the all time assist leader in both MWC games and all games by a wide margin. Even more remarkable for someone as unselfish as he is, he will finish as the all time leading scorer in MWC games, surpassing Sam Merrill, and will finish second in scoring in all games, trailing only 2011 Naismith Award winner Jimmer Fredette.

In the conversation as best player ever at CSU. The clear cut leader for the best career as a point guard in the MWC.

But the stakes are higher than individual recognition in 2023-24.

After a semifinal appearance in the NIT IN 2021 and earning a 6-seed in the NCAA tourney in 2022, the Rams took a huge step back in 2023, as they struggled with injuries that severely depleted their depth and ability to develop the requisite level of cohesion to be successful.

They lost key starters John Tonje and Isaiah Rivera to the transfer portal. But as we all know, the portal taketh and the portal giveth and the Rams have added a talented trio of players who all come from the Colorado Springs area. Nique Clifford, Javonte Johnson, and Joel Scott.

And it will be Isaiah Stevens’ role to unlock these three players skills alongside returners Pat Cartier, Jalen Lake, Tavi Jackson, Joe Palmer, and Kyle Evans.

Nique Clifford is a gifted 6’6” wing who was Colorados Prep player of the Year and a Top 100 national recruit. After three years and 50 starts in Boulder, he comes with something to prove, having fallen off statistically from his sophomore to junior season. Make no mistake about it, he is a high level talent just needing to be unlocked. He has never played in an offense as creative as CSUs and with a point guard like Stevens. He shot 40% from three as a sophomore and will get plenty of opportunities to expand his offensive game both on the perimeter and attacking the rim. He will no longer be playing in an offense with a ball-centric, dribble happy point guard.

Javonte Johnson was an AAU teammate of Clifford and a Top 200 recruit. In his three seasons at MWC rival New Mexico he started 62 games. At 6’6” , he plays mostly on the wing but has been known to guard bigger interior players. He is a 40% shooter from the perimeter in MWC games and a highly efficient scorer. He was the 6th most efficient scorer in MWC conference games in 2023. His issue is that he was rendered virtually invisible playing in an offense that was dominated by two guards that combined to take well over 50% of the shots. Stevens’ challenge will be to unlock Johnson and turn him into a more assertive force on the offensive end. In other words, get him the ball at the right time and place. And demand that he take the initiative.

Joel Scott comes to CSU after four years as Black Hills (SD) State where he was named NCAA Division 2 Player of the Year. Over 2000 career points and just under 1000 rebounds for the 6’7” forward who can play both inside and out. He could,have come sooner to D1 but chose to stay in hopes on winning a national championship at Black Hills (they lost in the semifinals). Much like last years D2 addition Pat Cartier, Scott has skills that will immediate translate. Stevens and Cartier developed a great understanding in running pick and roll plays and I think we can look for similar actions with Scott.

Stevens’ legacy will be further established with improved chemistry with returning shooting guards Jalen Lake and Josiah Strong. Lake is an underclassman who will be important in the following season.

And then there’s the backup point guards. Tavi Jackson returns for his sophomore season after a freshman season full of hiccups due to injury and COVID. Add freshman Kyan Evans, Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year and you have the future backcourt for CSU. The minutes will not be plentiful for them but they will have opportunities to learn from an alltime great in Stevens.

The 2023-24 CSU team will be deep, athletic, and talented. Preseason they look like an NIT lock and if they can connect on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor will certainly position themselves as an MWC contender and NCAA Tournament At Large team.

20 wins gets Stevens to 100 for his career. And while being an alltime individual statistical leader at CSU and in the MWC, He would tell you that wins will be the most important aspect of his CSU legacy. And leaving behind a winning program that players like Clifford, Johnson, Lake, and Jackson can build upon in upcoming seasons.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rick Stephens permalink
    May 26, 2023 7:12 pm

    Great description or the future for the Ram basketball team! Can’t wait for this season watching Isaiah direct this team and the new talent!

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