Tough to stop

John Carroll sophomore Isaiah Philmore has relied on versatility and fierce competitiveness to help his team to a 28-7 record

Basketball

February 18, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to the Sun

Isaiah Philmore isn't in Kansas anymore, but he's still making big plays and lasting impressions on the basketball court.

An early-season example occurred at Edmondson. John Carroll was clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute of the first half when Philmore got a layup after a turnover. The sophomore then grabbed the rebound of an Edmondson miss and went the distance for another layup with six seconds left.

When the second half started, he scored the first six points to give the Patriots an 11-point lead, which was the margin of victory in a 74-63 win.

"We played really hard, and I liked the intensity they came out with," Edmondson coach Roger O'Dea said about his players' efforts. "But Philmore, he's a tough kid to stop."

That was true last year when Philmore played on a five-player junior varsity-varsity team for St. Xavier High in Kansas and averaged 39 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks per game. Philmore said the team looked to him to come up with the big plays, not just big numbers.

He learned the difference when St. Xavier lost games in which he scored 55 and 49 points.

Dealing with that pressure last season has helped him adjust to the faster-paced game he has found at John Carroll.

The 6-foot-6 forward wants the ball when the pressure's on and has become one of the area's top players, drawing attention from Maryland, Georgetown, Florida and other Division I schools.

In their first year at John Carroll, Philmore and freshman guard Josh Selby give the Patriots a strong one-two punch. Both are averaging 15.9 points, and Philmore has shown the ability to spark runs like he did against Edmondson, which has helped John Carroll to a 28-7 record and the No. 2 seed in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference playoffs.

Philmore "can assert his will through his athletic ability and energy, and he can create 6-0 runs that you need to help turn the tide," John Carroll coach Tony Martin said. "He does that frequently."

Philmore is versatile: He can play the high or low post, and he's effective in either role. He's averaging 9.5 rebounds per game, about half of which are offensive and have led to a number of put-backs. He also can hit the outside shot.

"Every team, you know they come into the game knowing what he does, but they haven't been able to stop it," John Carroll teammate Ryan Horka said.

Said Philmore, "I see my role as being a leader. I [want to] step up and do the things that need to be done to win games - whatever is needed.

"I've pretty much learned that you need teamwork to win. I didn't really know about that because last year it was pretty much Isaiah, Isaiah, Isaiah. But this year, the competition is harder and with me coming from a point where I was a captain, it made it easier for me."

Philmore came to Bel Air after his freshman season because his mother wanted to move to the East Coast to make it easier to travel to her native Germany, and so that Isaiah would be closer to his father, who lives in Atlanta.

Martin isn't surprised the transition has been a smooth one, at least on the court. He and assistant coach Anthony Macri rave about Philmore's work ethic and competitive nature. Philmore, they said, doesn't like to lose at anything, even something as simple as sprints in practice.

"What you see with him is that he doesn't back down from a challenge," Macri said. "He actually embraces challenge and adversity. We all [often] lean on him to be our workhorse."

Although he's known as being shy and polite, Philmore won't hesitate to raise his voice in practice or a game when needed.

"When the game's really on the line, you have to pick things up and get vocal and tell everybody where to go," Philmore said. "Once you start doing the right thing, everyone will follow, and it will become a great game."

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