Before the season started, Tramaine Isabell came with some high praises. Sam Snelling from Rock M. Nation told us that “Tramaine is a confident kid and isn’t afraid of a challenge.” Drexel grad Major Canady said, “Tramaine is one of the best individuals I’ve seen play here at Drexel University.” That is coming from a guy who played with Damion Lee and Chris Fouch, two of the best shooters to take the court for Drexel this century.
For most mid-major teams, non-conference play is a different animal. Teams might not be scouted as heavily as conference opponents. Playtime might be differently distributed as players start to drop into the roles they will occupy once conference play starts. For a team like Drexel, the “real” season began on December 30th when they took the court in North Carolina against Elon, without their best scorer.
Drexel’s defense has, at best, been suspect this season. The Dragons have stayed in games for the large part because of their ability to maintain possession and score efficiently and Isabell has been a big piece, if not the biggest piece, of that. With an average of 21.1 points per game against conference opponents, Isabell has led from the front. The red-shirt junior with the deadly spin move has seemed to be able to effectively find holes and get to the hoop.
As of Wednesday morning, Isabell has the 8th highest field goal percentage in conference play. In his 14 games against CAA opponents he is shooting 51.4% from the field. The only guards with a higher percentage are Grant Riller (59.8%) from the College of Charleston and Justin Pierce (52.4%) from William & Mary. As a hardnosed, drive first player, Isabell is going to get fouled. In fact, his 5.4 fouls drawn per 40 minutes is the 6th highest in the conference. When he has gotten to the line, Tramaine Isabell has converted 69.6%, of his chances, good enough for 20th.
While Isabell is occasionally plagued by forced shots when his hand gets hot, his conference play numbers, especially, tell a lot about his ability to maintain possession while involving the players around him. In conference play, Isabell is averaging 3.2 assists per game, ranking him 7th overall. His assist to turnover ratio is 1.2, good enough for 9th.
That assist number says a lot about this team’s ability to be successful when they move the ball, not so much because of Isabell’s average but because of Kurk Lee’s assist numbers when combined with Isabell’s. Lee’s 2.8 assists per game ranks him 10th overall. The only other school with two players in the top ten list of helpers is Hofstra. While Drexel’s assist to field goal ratio is pretty low, the numbers by this pair paints the picture of a more balanced attack from the Dragons. That hypothesis is backed up by their teammates too. Drexel currently has four players scoring over 10 points per game in conference play with Sammy Mojica and Austin Williams just off the pace at 9.9 and 9.0 respectively.
Following his 40 point performance against Elon, Isabell commented that he had not shot well enough from the perimeter to deserve to take more of those shots. While some of them might be considered ill advised due to range or situation, the Dragons have seen improved contributions from Isabell’s perimeter game.
Since Drexel’s victory against the Phoenix, Isabell is shooting 39.1% from three. His 37.3% 3 point field goal percentage is good enough for 22nd in conference play. He has, without a doubt, become Drexel’s most reliable option from the outside as he has outshot Alihan Demir (38.1%), Lee (37.1%), Mojica (32.6%) and Troy Harper (20%) during the same time frame. Drexel has yet to find a way to fill the void created when Kari Jonsson left the school but Isabell’s play has certainly helped matters.
The most remarkable statistic in Isabell’s dossier might be his rebounding numbers. On a team that has relied heavily on Austin Williams’ ability on the glass, their six foot guard has contributed regularly, especially on the defensive end of the floor. His 7.1 rebounds per game is good enough for 2nd on the team and his 20.6% of defensive rebounds is the 7th highest in the conference. The six guys ahead of him average 6’8” in height.
Moving back to points, how does Isabell’s scoring compare to some of Drexel’s all-time greats?
With a season average of 20.4, Tramaine Isabell’s points per game this season is the 5th highest in the history of Drexel Basketball. With just two games remaining, he would have to score nearly 70 points to pass Damion Lee who averaged 21.4 points in his 2014-15 campaign, an accomplishment that should be secondary to Drexel winning both remaining games, which would give them a chance to skip the Saturday contests in the conference tournament in Charleston. Still, for a guy like Tramaine Isabell, it is not a summit that is unreachable. For a player to have their name mentioned with the likes of Michael Anderson, John Rankin, Damion Lee, and Malik Rose puts them in some pretty good company in the history of Drexel Men’s Basketball.
Coach Spiker has said that when the game is on the line, it is not a secret who will be handling the ball for the Dragons. More times than not, with two guys, Isabell and Kurk Lee, on the floor together who are capable point guards, that work load might be divided. As the conference tournament approaches, everyone on the court, including that pair needs to remember that the taker of the shot is not nearly important as making sure that they are taking the best shot available. Moving the ball and taking smart shots is exactly what created that four game winning streak just a few weeks ago.
Looking at his offensive body of work, Tramaine Isabell has a come a long way from the guy who was benched for the team’s season opener against Bowling Green. He has grown on the court, and despite not being 100% health wise for much of the season, the effort that he puts forth on the floor has not shown it.