A person can receive their eye color, hair color, and other traits from their parents, but one trait has separated senior point guard Isiah Elliot from the rest: he was born with the gift of basketball.
“I’ve been playing since I started to walk,” Elliot said. “I had two little Fisher Price hoops downstairs, full court. My dad was a coach, my mom was a coach, they both played, so I guess it’s just in my blood.”
Through all of his years of lighting up the hardwood for McKinley High School and Malone University, one thing that Elliot had always eluded was a setback to keep him from playing the sport he has always loved.
But all that changed last February when Elliot suffered his first major injury of his basketball career: shortly after scoring his 1000th career point as a Pioneer, he tore his ACL in his right knee.
“I had never had an injury prior to this,” Elliot said. “It was hard, especially the first couple games because it was pretty ugly. It just sucks knowing that you can’t go out there and do anything to help your team.”
Elliot was forced into surgery to repair his knee, and then began doing anything he could to get back on the court.
“He (Elliot) put in a tremendous amount of work this summer,” said men’s head basketball coach Tim Walker. “He attacked it. He got after it. He worked as hard as he could and he was chomping at the bate to get in here and do as much as he could.”
Elliot hit the gym hard over the summer, determined to make it back for the 2013-14 winter season. From hard days of training, Elliot made remarkable improvement.
“This summer I was going to rehab twice a day,” said Elliot. “I was working with our trainer, Chris Watson, doing some agility workouts and stretching and things like that.”
Elliot rates his current condition at a “95 percent” and hopes to continue his progress.
“After games and practices my knee still gets pretty stiff,” Elliot said. “I just have to be patient with it.”
The injury occurred when Elliot was fouled on a drive to the bucket that ended with Elliot and his defender colliding to the ground against archrival Walsh University. The Pioneers could not recover and were defeated 65-55 by the Cavaliers.
“I knew something had happened when I was fouled, but I tried to shoot my free throws and walk it off,” Elliot said. “I missed both free throws, and then I fell down at the other end again.”
Walker tried to be proactive when the injury first occurred.
“My initial thought was to regroup and see if we could find a way to win that game, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Walker said. “The toughest thing for me that weekend was not so much thinking about our team but thinking about him. You see a kid do so much you’re so excited for him, and then this happens. As a coach, wins and losses are going to come and go, but you feel bad for the kid as much as anything.”
After Elliot’s season-ending injury against Walsh, the Pioneers lost their next two games before finishing the season strong by winning three of their last four games.
Elliot’s expectations and goals for his senior season have not wavered after his injury; he expects to pick up where he has left off.
“I expect to be back to where I was last year,” Elliot said. “I’m not going to let this hold me back.”
Elliot averaged 19.2 points a year ago and was in serious competition for the GLIAC Conference Player of the Year Award before his untimely injury.
“I don’t have a statistical goal for him or anything like that,” Walker said. “We want him to come back and help us win games and lead our team.
“Isiah’s probably the best player I’ve ever coached. He’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. He’s not selfish but he’s extremely talented, and probably the biggest thing is that he knows the game of basketball so well.”
Chaise Gerber is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.