La Salle guard Isiah Deas attempts a shot against Villanova.
(USA Today Images)
Isiah “Shaggy” Deas has followed somewhat of an atypical path to becoming a heavily relied upon figure in La Salle’s rotation. Deas spent part of his high school years at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, NY, where he was a two-star recruit with little Division 1 interest.
Despite being on a squad that featured players like current St. John’s star Shamorie Ponds and St. Francis (BKN) guard Rasheem Dunn, Deas thrived at Jefferson. Following their win to capture the “borough title,” head coach Lawrence Pollard said to the Brooklyn Daily that Deas “doesn’t know how good he is. He’s one of the better players in the city, but he is just too cool and laid back. He’s just a nice kid. I told him, ‘listen brother, this is Brooklyn AA — nice guys finish last.’ ”
Following his time at Jefferson, Deas, as a two-star recruit, noticed that his Division 1 future may be limited. That helped him make the decision to spend a year in prep school at Coastal Academy in New Jersey.
“A year of prep school, I really believe will give me the time needed to dedicate to my body. Getting in the weight room and getting stronger will only make me more prepared for college,” Deas told NYCHoops.net.
During his prep year, Deas lead Coastal Academy to a 28-6 record, showing great potential as a versatile defender and athletic finisher.
Deas’ recruiting hype hit its pinnacle in April of 2016, when he was named the MVP of the Annual Unsigned Hype Senior Showcase in Brooklyn, scoring 23 points.
“I just wanted to come out here, play hard and put on a show for the people” Deas told the Forest Hills Times. “A lot of coaches were in here, I just wanted to show them what I could do.”
It wasn’t until late in June of ‘16 that the report came out about Isiah Deas signing with La Salle, only days before Deas was supposed to report to Philly to begin taking classes. Even when he finally was a student at La Salle, the status of Deas’ academic eligibility was in question. The speculations came to a haul on November 9th and two days later, the Explorers’ took on Temple, where Deas started and turned heads, scoring 12 points in 29 minutes of play.
Deas told City of Basketball Love that when thinking about his first game at La Salle, he “still get chills. Starting your first college game was just amazing in itself, on the road, at Temple, It was ridiculous.”
After that Temple game, La Salle’s head coach Dr. John Giannini never awarded Deas the opportunity to play further extensive minutes for the Explorers during his freshman season, averaging 9.9 minutes per game throughout 17 games.
This season, Deas has been a bright spot during an up-and-down year for the Explorers.
Shaggy has seen his minutes and role in the offense expand more and more as his sophomore season progresses, now averaging 10.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist on 39% shooting from the field in 25.4 minutes per game. At this point in his development, Deas is well suited for his role as the team’s sixth man. Often paired on the floor with either Pookie Powell or B.J. Johnson, Deas is a versatile player in the offense. He can be a shot-creator from the wing when needed, with a nice mid-range pull-up that keeps defenders close to him.
In turn, this has opened up dribble-drive opportunities as well and as this part of his game becomes more effective, defenses will begin collapsing on him. At some point, it would be wise for Deas to expand his game with kick-out passes to the perimeter, keeping defenses from collapsing on him in the lane, while also setting teammates up with open three-point shots.
Deas can also settle in as a floor spacer and third scoring option in lineups that feature him, Powell, and Johnson, as 48% of all Deas’ field goal attempts come from behind the three-point line. With Johnson’s injury and nearly month-long absence, the Explorers have relied upon Deas this past month more than ever, posting a usage percentage of 24.7% on the season, third highest usage percentage on the team and merely four points lower than second place Powell. He has scored in double digits six out of the last seven games showing that he is continuing to get more comfortable on the floor for Giannini.
With the eminent departure of Amar Stukes and B.J. Johnson after this season, there will be glaring roster holes that La Salle will need to fill. If Deas can continue to grow stronger and improve his rebounding, his 6-foot-6 frame will fit perfectly into the wing-forward role that B.J. Johnson currently occupies.
The ceiling for what Deas may develop into during the next few years is quite high. With his combination of length, athleticism, shot-making ability, and defensive potential, Deas can be the Explorers’ best player and leader down the line and looks from NBA scouts are certainly not out of the question.
-La Salle loses to UMass in the first round of the A-10 tournament