Several teams, including Michigan, look at Detroit Denby guard Isaiah Sykes
DETROIT - He doesn’t have much by way of scholarship offers, but Isaiah Sykes isn’t concerned about that yet.
He’s focused on winning a state championship for Detroit Denby. At least that was the senior’s message after scoring 18 points in a 47-37 win over Taylor Kennedy on Tuesday night, sending the Tars to the Class A semifinals in the Breslin Center.
“I don’t think about it at the time,” Sykes said. “Coach tells me to keep focusing on the state. I’m getting calls from USC, LSU, but I have to stay focused and stay humble.”
The other school paying attention to Sykes is Michigan, which has watched the 6-foot-5 slashing guard multiple times in the past few months. Ann Arbor, Sykes said, “that’s a good place to be.”
When college coaches watched Sykes, what they likely saw is this - a player with a quick first step, good court vision and enough hangtime to create while he’s in the air.
They also saw a player whose responsibility is to call a lot of plays for Denby. That’s why, he said, if it looks like he’s merely standing around on the court sometimes during offensive plays, it isn’t.
“It’s reading the defense,” Sykes said. “It’s me calling the play out that I think can work.”
One of the other things that stands out about Sykes’ game is that, well, he doesn’t shoot. Against Kennedy, he didn’t take a single shot outside of the paint. When he was at the free throw line, he made two of five shots and had an odd-looking form for a guard.
The reasons, though, vary as to why Sykes doesn’t shoot. His coach, Charles Albright, said it is because Sykes would rather pass. Sykes, meanwhile, said teams merely haven’t forced him to.
Kennedy didn’t on Tuesday, either. When he had one-on-one coverage, he easily blew by opponents. When a second player slid over to trap Sykes in a two-on-one, he either passed the ball back up top or found a cutter for a layup.
“I can shoot the ball,” Sykes said. “Nobody makes it to where I have to shoot it so I’m just going to continue doing what I do, and if I can’t score, I’m going to get my guys open and they are going to be right there to have my back.”
That’s something Sykes realized he could do early as a way to get his entire team involved. When he was younger, Sykes said, he could score “50 a game” but that he wanted to show he could pass, too.
And in some ways - as far as not carrying a bulk of Denby’s scoring load - it has been easier. But when it comes to his own game, sometimes it makes it more difficult. Being more selfish with the ball, Albright said, is something Sykes needs to work on.
“Sometimes (he’s) too unselfish and making the game come easier to him by shooting the jumper because he can shoot the jumper,” Albright said. “He just gets to the basket so easy and he passes extremely well.”