There’s only one New Jersey high school basketball team ranked in the top five of USA Today’s Super 25. It’s Roselle Catholic. And the Lions have only one goal this season. As Kentucky-bound guard Isaiah Briscoe says, it’s “T of C or bust.”
The state’s top team, the Lions ran all over Plainfield during their 74-43 season-opening win on Friday night. Briscoe, the school’s starring 6-3 leader, finished with 21 points in three quarters to cement his place as the top point guard not only in the state but in the country. On a team of stars and Division I recruits, Briscoe is still floating high above the rest. They’ll go as far as he takes them.
That was never more evident than during last season’s Tournament of Champions. In the semifinals, Briscoe missed a jumper that would’ve beaten Newark East Side. Instead, the Lions went home empty-handed. But since then all he’s done is impress John Calipari by dominating the AAU circuit with the NJ Playaz, then come back to school with a body that looks ready for the SEC right now. On his way to Kentucky next year as part of another hallowed recruiting class, Briscoe first has unfinished business at Roselle Catholic: winning the T of C. That journey started on a cold Friday night in Roselle this past weekend.
Every kid grows up wanting to play high school basketball and star in front of his classmates, friends, and family on Friday nights. The love. The glory. The pride. The memories. On the eve of his final high school basketball season, 18-year-old Isaiah Briscoe told us what that was all about. Then he backed it up.
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all images via Jordan Kleinman
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BRISCOE: “First game of the season, I think we’re ready. We’re going to get everybody’s best game. We’ve been going hard in practice. We’ve been pushing each other so I think when the lights are on everybody on my team will perform.
“It’s not really a rivalry [with Plainfield], but like I said we get everybody’s best game. It started getting like that recently, getting everybody’s best game. We’ve been ranked preseason top 10 the last two years.”
BRISCOE: “I don’t really have a routine before a Friday night game. I treat it just like it’s a regular day. I don’t have a routine or a ritual or nothing like that. I go to school – we have a half day on Friday – then I go home, chill, watch some cartoons and then at seven o’clock when it’s time to perform, I’m gonna perform.
“I watch SpongeBob, the Regular Show, the Avengers. Ever since I was little I’ve been a big cartoon fan. I don’t really like watching basketball on TV a lot. I don’t know why. My whole life is pretty much revolving around basketball so sometimes I don’t even want to watch basketball or talk about basketball. I just want to be a kid. I think that’s where it comes from. I feel like a kid again when I watch cartoons.
“I don’t listen to music before games. If I’m turning the music on, that’s just stopping me from having conversations.”
BRISCOE: “The atmosphere when we play at home is crazy. Our fan support is amazing. When we have big games, they bring out all the bleachers so they go around like an arena. The gym is crazy during all home games but especially big games.”
BRISCOE: “Before leaving for Kentucky, I’m working on my three-ball and continuing to get in better shape. I think if I do those two, I’ll be good. I can do anything amazing at any given point in the game.”
BRISCOE: “The craziest home game experience I’ve ever had was probably last year against St. Peter’s. That was probably the craziest game. We had our crowd. They had their crowd and it was just a tough, hard-nosed game. I think we feed off that. If our fans are in the game, I think we get into the game even more, and we want to hear them get louder and louder. Whenever we feed our energy off them, it’s like the same thing. If they’re loud and into the game then we feed off them and we get live and into the game.”
BRISCOE: “I rock all kinds of sneakers. I switch them up every game. Last year, I didn’t really have a favorite but maybe the Jordan performance sneakers like the Super.Fly or the CP3. But I switch it up every game. I don’t wear the same shoes twice. I wear mostly Jordans.”
BRISCOE: “The coaches just expect me to run the team. They are stressing for me to become more of a leader. That’s pretty much the main thing. We’re trying to win the TOC championship. That’s our main goal. I don’t believe in pressure. If anything, we are doing it for ourselves rather than doing it for the rankings.”
BRISCOE: “I’d like to see everybody on my team reach their goals. That’s the main thing. I just want to see everybody do well.”