Canada's Isiaha Mike finds stardom in the States at Duquesne
His rapid ascension has taken him from his native Toronto, to Las Vegas and now to Pittsburgh where he is a freshman forward at Duquesne. Not even two months into his collegiate career the 6-8, 200-pounder has twice earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week recognition.
“I am going to keep working on the things that I need to and if the people in the A-10 want to honor me, I will take the honors,” said Mike, who is averaging 10.1 points and is second on the Dukes with 5.7 rebounds though 14 games. “But I am not really focused on that as much as I am on helping the team win.”
He certainly wasn’t focused on hoops early in his high school career at West Hill Public School in Toronto. Rather, he put much attention into academics and it was not until he went the AAU route in the summer of 2014 that he seemingly overnight became one of Canada’s top prospects.
Like many promising basketball players in Canada, Mike completed high school in the States. He spent his final two years about 2,000 miles from home at Trinity International Schools in Las Vegas.
It wasn’t easy, certainly initially, for a teen to move such a far distance to complete his high school career. But he knew it would be a good fit and he helped lead the private school to a pair of National Christian School Athletic Association championship games. He averaged 27.6 points and 14.3 rebounds his senior season.
“At first it was kind of difficult to adjust because I had never been away from home,” he said. “It was very difficult at times, but it was a time that convinced me that basketball is what I wanted to do. It got a lot easier and it got to the point I was able to focus just on basketball and school.”
That focus led to a number of schools expressing interest. Duquesne, Fordham and St. Bonaventure, three A10 schools, were among them. He chose Duquesne where he is majoring in finance.
“Everything kind of blew up overnight,” he said of how fast his star rose. “It’s kind of hard to believe because I didn’t really have any confidence in myself. It was more my support system, my parents and my coaches. Once I put faith in what I could do it was a good combination (of self-confidence and support).”
As far as transitioning to college and getting acclimated to his new environs it helped that he went to Pittsburgh in the summer to play in a pro-am circuit that featured area college players and former players with ties to the area.
By the time preseason practice started Mike, whose mother is from Jamaica and father is a Canadian who played basketball at Humber College in Toronto, knew he had to become accustomed to the more physical style of play in college. There was one thing he needed to do: hit the weight room.
“At practice, when we first started scrimmaging, everybody seemed so much stronger than I was,” he said. “I would drive into the lane and I would just be getting bodied. So, I really had to get serious in the weight room because coming out of high school I didn’t really use the weight room that much. That was definitely the one thing that I had to work on the most, which is getting used to the physicality of the college game.”
If his first 14 games are any indication Mike has done that pretty well. Next up for him and the Dukes (8-6, 1-0) is an A-10 clash Wednesday on ASN against visiting VCU (11-3, 1-0). What those tuning in will likely see is a young player who, while learning, is no longer wanting for confidence.
“On a daily basis it’s (about) self-confidence,” he said. “Now that I see how some things are working for me self-confidence is definitely something that I have.”
Photos courtesy Dave DeNoma/Duquesne Athletics