Canaan’s decision to stand by Racers pays off perfectly
Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 7:00 pm
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
Isaiah Canaan never doubts himself — on or off the court.
That’s why the junior point guard plays at Murray State. Canaan has never second-guessed his decision even though bigger schools kept calling after he led his high school team to a Mississippi state title. He said the Racers believed in him when other schools didn’t.
“Nothing’s given to you,” Canaan said. “You’ve always got to work through things.”
Or to carry a team.
That’s what Canaan has done by averaging a team-leading 18.7 points for the 11th-ranked Racers; Murray State is last undefeated Division I men’s team this season at 20-0.
Next up is a home game Saturday against Eastern Illinois.
“Our coaches do a great job of trying to keep our focus and to continue to get us to remember what we did to get to this point and how hard it is to try to get to this point because we know that it can be taken away from us at the blink of an eye,” the guard said.
The biggest challenge might have been getting Canaan to Murray, Ky. Canaan, from Biloxi, Miss., had no idea where the town was, but he couldn’t miss then-assistant coach Steve Prohm who kept showing up “everywhere” Canaan was during recruiting.
“One of the selling points for Isaiah was you’ll always have the opportunity to go back to Biloxi,” said Prohm, who took over as coach for Billy Kennedy this summer. “If that’s where you want to raise your family one day, you can always go back. But give yourself the opportunity to see more of the world.”
Canaan spent a little over three months in Marietta, Ga. with his mother, Nicole Martin, following their exodus from Biloxi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when he was 14. He couldn’t wait to get back to the Gulf Shores area.
“We lost the house. We had to regroup tremendously just knowing that everything that we had was taken away,” Canaan said. “I only had a week’s amount of clothes, a couple of shoes and just knowing that you can be brought down so low and have to start over again.
“That’s probably the biggest thing.”
There weren’t a lot of serious recruiting calls beyond Murray State early, and Canaan committed to the Racers before leading Biloxi High to the 5A state championship in 2009. After that, Arkansas, Mississippi State and others checked in.
Canaan never wavered from his commitment to the Racers.
“I believed in them. I took it that they really wanted me. A lot of bigger schools called after we won state my senior year, but I just looked at it like they didn’t believe in me,” Canaan said. “Murray State was always there.”
And he’s returned the favor.
After Murray State entered the rankings, Canaan made his first national impression scoring 27 first-half points on his way to 35 in a win at Austin Peay. Canaan beams a little about that night, though he struggles to explain why he was so locked in.
“Some guys would see that and would get jealous or try to take their shots, but the way I see it, when you’re feeling it like that, you’ve got to feed the hot man,” guard Donte Poole said. “He made a lot, a lot of great plays. It was a great show to watch.”
He scored 20 points at Morehead State last week and followed that up with 21 in a win at SIU-Edwardsville.
He’s averaging nearly four points more a game on the road (19.6 ppg) than at home (15.7).
“If it’s up to me to take the shot at the end of the game, if that’s what the coaches draw up, then that’s what I’m going to do,” Canaan said.
Published in The Messenger 1.26.12