High School Sports

What’s life like for a pro basketball player? Biloxi’s Isaiah Canaan tells all

Chicago Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan plays against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 6, 2016. The former Biloxi standout is returning to the Coast next month to host a youth basketball camp at BHS.
Chicago Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan plays against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 6, 2016. The former Biloxi standout is returning to the Coast next month to host a youth basketball camp at BHS. AP File

Isaiah Canaan has experienced first hand the highs and lows of his dream of being in the NBA.

Shortly before being waived by the Chicago Bulls on Friday ahead of the weekend’s free agency, the former Biloxi Indian talked to the Sun Herald from his offseason home in Houston about the business side of being a professional basketball player, life with the Bulls, being a newly anointed hall of famer and his first youth basketball camp in South Mississippi, which he hopes is just the beginning of an annual tradition.

“It has definitely been a blur, to see how fast it has gone by. But it’s been fun. It’s the dream,” Canaan said of his still budding professional career. “You get to play on the highest stage, your family gets to watch you play, and just meeting new people. You get to travel across the world playing the game of basketball that you love to play. But to be able to take care of your family is also a blessing as well. It has definitely been fun.

“I’m still learning and growing as I go.”

Originally drafted out of Murray State in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft, Canaan spent his first two seasons with the Houston Rockets before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Last offseason, Canaan signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls but was ultimately waived Friday afternoon along with teammate Rajon Rondo.

Now in search of his fourth team, called the business side of pursuing his dream challenging.

“It’s the side of basketball a lot of people don’t know about,” he said. “You just have to do what you’re brought in to do, which is play the game of basketball, and let your agent do the rest.”

After signing with the Bulls last offseason, Canaan found himself in a crowded backcourt that also included big names like Rondo and Dwyane Wade. After averaging 12.6 and 11 points the two previous seasons with a rebuilding 76ers squad, Canaan saw his playing time diminish this year with the veteran team. He finished with 4.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the floor in 15.2 minutes a night.

“It was challenging just with the peaks and valleys of a long season. You can be playing at one point, then not be playing. You just have to stick with it, continue to get better every year,” Canaan said, adding it was still fun to play with Rondo, Wade and the recently traded Jimmy Butler. “Those guys have proven themselves and make a lot of money to do what they do. It’s a pecking order sometimes. Like in Philly, we were always young so we were free-wheeling.

“Then you get to a veteran team and there’s a pecking order. It’ll be the same for the young guys who come in under me.”

Positive playoff push

Although Canaan was more of a reserve during the regular season, he played in three playoff games against the Boston Celtics with two starts.

He made the most of first exposure to the playoffs, averaging 11.7 points while shooting 13 of 26 from the floor. He also totaled four assists, three steals and four rebounds.

“It’s definitely a great starting point for me going into next season. I was just glad to have the opportunity to start my first playoff games and be able to go out there and help as much as possible. That was good for me,” Canaan said. “I always knew what I was capable of doing. It was always just about opportunity and timing. Sometimes luck is a requirement. It’s just all about the opportunity and timing. Sometimes it won’t be your time and sometimes it will be your time.

“Whenever an opportunity is presented to me, I try to make the best of it.”

Handling rumors

During Canaan’s interview with the Sun Herald, his future still remained up in the air with the Bulls. He discussed handling rumors and media reports about his future.

“You just have to remember where you come from. Never get too high or too low. You have to stay even keel. As long as you can do that, everything else will handle itself,” Canaan said. “Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, regain your focus and keep pushing forward.”

Canaan acknowledged that his time in Chicago could be coming to a close.

“It all comes down to which direction the team wants to go in, and whatever your agent discusses with the GM. Sometimes it’s a waiting game,” he said. “That’s what free agency is, where everyone is just sitting around and waiting to see what happens, see what pieces can fall where. It’s a big ole scrabble board sometimes.

“You just wait around and see what happens until you’re one of those guys who can pick their own destination, where you can pick where you want to go.”

Canaan said if he were to hit free agency, which is now guaranteed, he was optimistic about his next chapter.

“I’m confident,” he said. “Always confident. Everything happens for a reason.”

Canaan Ball Basketball Camp

Regardless of what uniform Canaan dons for the 2017-18 season, the former Indian will be back on the Coast July 26-27 for his first youth camp.

“I’m looking forward to getting it off the ground and making it an annual thing,” Canaan said. “I just felt like it was time.

The camp is geared toward improving basic basketball fundamentals “responsible for becoming a better basketball player.”

“I’m sure a lot of the kids want to see what it takes to get (to the NBA),” Canaan said. “I’m going to teach shooting, ball handling, competing. Really just coming in, have fun, learning the basics and what it takes to get there. I’m going to push them a little just to challenge them. I really just want them to know they’re going to learn and have fun at the same time.

“I really want to build a relationship with the community and the whole Coast for people who haven’t had an opportunity to meet me or be a part of a camp where an NBA guy comes back home.”

After revisiting his path from South Mississippi to the NBA, Canaan said he hopes he can inspire the Coast’s youth.

“I really want to instill the faith in them that no matter where you’re at or where you come from, you can get to your dreams,” he said. “It always starts with someone lending a hand out and helping. Anyway I can, I try to do that.”

More information can be found at his website: kstrutpr.ticketleap.com/canaan-ball-basketball-camp.

Hall of Famer

Canaan is already in line to have a big 2018. Earlier this summer Murray State announced Canaan will be a member of the school’s Hall of Fame class of 2018.

Canaan is one of 10 three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selections and was a two-time OVC Player of the Year (2012, 2013), not to mention the OVC Freshman of the Year in 2010 and a 2012 All-American. The Biloxi native ranks fifth all-time at MSU with 2,050 career points. His 304 3-pointers are a MSU record and second in OVC history.

“They treated me amazingly while I was there playing. There was so much support. They really take pride in their athletic programs,” Canaan said. “... It was home away from home, and for them to name me a hall of famer is a blessing.

“I didn’t go there trying to be a hall of famer, I just went there knowing I was going to play basketball.”

After winning the state championship as a senior in 2009, Canaan’s felt pressure from other larger programs to flip, but the Racers won out in the end.

“They were after me the hardest and the longest,” Canaan said. “After we won state, I had a lot of SEC schools try to get me but I committed before my senior year because I didn’t want something to happen and then I lose all my offers. They did a tremendous job recruiting me and I decided to stay loyal to them since they stayed loyal to me.

“They really believed in me. I guess they saw something that I didn’t see at the time.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

Canaan Ball Basketball Camp

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., July 26-27

Where: Biloxi High

Ages: 9-17

Cost: $100

Website: kstrutpr.ticketleap.com/canaan-ball-basketball-camp

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