Isaiah Maurice committed to the University of Memphis from Kansas State University two years ago.
He has experienced the highs and lows of college basketball. Going from a spot starter on last year’s squad to coming off the bench this season, he’s learned to embrace his role on this year’s squad as they seek to win the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas starting on Thursday night against East Carolina.
“In my two years, I have learned a lot and I feel like I have become a better player over the last two years since I have been in Memphis,” Maurice said during last Wednesday’s player availability before the Tigers’ victory over Wichita State Thursday evening.
“My skill set, my mentality, being more selfless, and learning how to sacrifice minutes for the betterment of the team are some of the things that I feel that I have worked on, which has made me a better player.”
Maurice, a North Carolina native, who originally committed to the Wildcats, played 30 games with KSU during the 2016-2017 season. He transferred to the University of Memphis after playing a year of basketball at South Plains College in Texas. He helped lead SPC to a NJCAA appearance. After averaging six points per game in his junior year at the U of M, his averages have dipped significantly this season.
Maurice provides only four points per game this season, mainly due to the play of five-star recruit Precious
Achiuwa, who is the only freshman playing Division 1 basketball averaging a double.
Maurice’s value, however, extends beyond the court on game days, according to Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway.
“Isaiah has meant a lot to this program because he did not even have to come here,” Hardaway said at the press conference. “He has been a part of some big wins, he pushes the guys in practice, and he has graduated while he’s been here as well.”
Despite knowing that he would be pushed in practice and by incoming recruits from the 2019 recruiting class, Maurice decided to stay at the U of M, although he surrendered a large amount of playing early in the season to former Tiger James Wiseman.
In addition to Wiseman, Hardaway played Achiuwa and 6-9 freshman rim runner Malcolm Dandridge ahead of Maurice. The 6-9 senior was not shy admitting his frustration over the lack of playing time on certain occasions.
“I certainly expected to play more this season, but I knew that staying here meant that I would have to sacrifice with James (Wiseman) coming in,” Maurice said as he reflected on his time at the U of M.”
Despite not receiving the minutes that he desires, Maurice had nothing but positive things to say about Hardaway.
“The fans love him, and the city loves him as well,” Maurice said. “When he recruited me, he stated his goals of winning a national championship and wanting to bring one back to the city.”
Maurice is the only senior on the squad, which has provided him the opprtunity to establish close relationships with some of the younger guys on the squad.
“It’s tough playing with a lot of guys that just came out of high school, but I think that they have come along as the season has progressed,” he said.
For players who express an interest in being part of the Tigers program, Maurice had this to say:
“You will learn a lot coming here. You have to be disciplined, and things will not come easy,” he said about the culture Hardaway has re-established at Memphis. “However, if you buy in, the payoff will be great.”