FAYETTEVILLE — Isaiah Joe can take a charge as well as make a three-point shot.
Before Joe set the University of Arkansas basketball program’s single-season record for three-point baskets in the Razorbacks’ 84-48 victory at Vanderbilt last Wednesday night, he took his team-leading 24th charge from Commodores forward Simisola Shittu.
Shittu is 6-10 and 240 pounds compared to Joe at 6-5 and 167, but the Razorbacks’ freshman guard from Fort Smith didn’t hesitate to lay his body on the line as he’s done repeatedly this season.
“It definitely hurts,” Joe said earlier this season when asked about taking charges, especially from bigger opponents. “I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t.
“I feel all 200 pounds of it, or whatever a guy weighs. But at the end of the day, my adrenaline’s going when we get those charges. It’s all about getting that extra possession.
“So being able to cause a turnover and get a foul on them, get the ball back, it’s just a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
Joe hit 4 of 6 three-pointers at Vanderbilt to give him 104 and break the Arkansas record of 102 set by Scotty Thurman — who is now a Razorbacks assistant coach — during the 1994-95 season.
Given the fact Joe surpassed the mark of a star on Arkansas’ 1994 national championship and 1995 national runner-up teams, his three-point shooting has gotten a lot of attention. That might have caused other parts of his game to be overlooked.
“Isaiah does a lot more than just shoot the basketball,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s a very good all-around player.
“This guy takes charges, he’s guarding people, he’s rebounding. He’s a great passer, too.”
Joe — who is now up to an SEC-best 106 three-point baskets — also leads the Razorbacks with 49 steals and is third on the team with 53 assists along with averaging 14.0 points. His 96 deflections are tied for third on the team.
“Joe’s a complete player,” said Ole Miss assistant coach Ronnie Hamilton, who was responsible for scouting Arkansas for the Rebels’ two games against the Razorbacks. “He does a lot of things without the ball in his hands to help them win games.
“He just plays the right way. He doesn’t try to do things he’s not capable of doing. He always seems to be in the right position defensively, and offensively he really helps them space the floor, because you’ve got to account for him on the perimeter.
“He’s one of the best freshmen in the country and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. He’s going to be really, really good.”
Joe figures to be on the SEC’s All-Freshman Team when conference honors are announced today.
“He does things quietly and he makes things look very easy,” Vanderbilt coach Drew Bryce said. “He does a good job of being in the right place at the right time.”
Arkansas and Joe will be back in Nashville, Tenn., to play Florida at noon on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena in the SEC Tournament.
“Isaiah Joe is terrific young talent,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He’s not a one-dimensional guy. He’s a guy that will continue to progress. He is already a very, very good player and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Joe averaged 20.0 points and 2.5 steals in two games against Missouri while hitting 14 of 27 shots, including 11 of 21 three-pointers.
“I think simply put he’s as good as any freshman in the conference,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s also one of the better guys in our league regardless of what class he’s in.
“I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that shoots it better. He has a great stroke on him.
“His demeanor is tremendous on the floor. It seems like he just plays the game and makes big shots, and he does a good job of defending.”
Joe’s teammates appreciate his approach on defense.
“We know he’s sharpshooter, but he’ll sacrifice his body to help us get the ball back,” Arkansas freshman guard Desi Sills said.
Junior forward Adrio Bailey said Joe’s defense isn’t taken for granted.
“Coach A emphasizes guarding a man-and-a-half, and by Isaiah being over there with help-side defense to take those charges, it means a lot,” Bailey said. “It shows he has his brother’s back.”
Joe said he took a lot of charges when he played at Northside High School and on the Arkansas Hawks AAU team.
“My AAU team played just like the Hogs do — getting down and dirty — so you’ve got to do whatever it takes to win a game,” he said. “If you have to take the charge when it comes time, then you have to the charge.”
Joe was asked how taking a charge feels compared to hitting a three-point shot.
“Shooting threes is what I do, so it’s more natural,” he said. “Of course, when I get hot, there’s going to be a lot of adrenaline going, a lot of emotions in the air.
“But taking charges, not a lot of people do it, so whenever you’re able to get one, it changes the momentum of the game.”
Anderson said that earlier this season he had some concerns about Joe taking charges against bigger players, but he’s not worried about it now.
“I think he’s got a big heart, and he’s got a great basketball IQ,” Anderson said. “He’s seasoned now in terms of playing at the level that you’ve got to play with here — the strength.
“One thing about him, he’s not afraid. So that means he’s got some toughness about him.
“I think he just continues to get better and better each and every game. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”