Aug. 14, 2012
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By Brandon Naidus
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Jaw-dropping dunks and chase-from-behind blocks helped Isaiah Sykes comprise a large portion of the highlight reels for UCF men's basketball this past season. Sykes, who is entering enters his junior campaign, is known for his explosiveness on the court.
The 6-foot 5 guard built on his reputation as a defensive stopper and became an offensive threat for the Knights in 2011-12. He averaged 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, compared to 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game his freshman year. Sykes posted 22 double-digit scoring performances last season.
In order to improve, last offseason he worked on several different things.
"I worked on offensive rebounds, defense and knocking down open shots. I did a lot of ball handling and skills drills and conditioning. I did anything to better myself and the program," he said.
This offseason, he has been trying to practice against players from various positions in order to be ready for whatever assignment he draws on the defensive or offensive side in a game.
Sykes also used the skills he worked on in drills and practice in pickup games against tough competition.
"It's a lot of good competition. That is one thing that is great about it. You come in, everyone has to compete. Everyday everyone is going hard. If you didn't bring your 100 percent, everyone is going to go at you, no matter whom you are or what position you are at," he said.
The Detroit native plays hard on each possession, bringing a determined mindset each time he steps onto the court and makes no exception for pickup games.
"I approach it as a game. We want to go in there and go hard. You want to get a good sweat and get something out of it. You want to make sure everyone is competing at the best of their abilities. So, you can work on your games and not let anyone cheat you. You don't want to cheat anyone by not going hard," Sykes said.
After practicing against players of different sizes, Sykes likes to test himself in pickup situations. He will guard 5-foot 10 point guards, 6-foot 11 centers and anyone in between.
"I play against a lot of guys. I like to play against different people and have different people check me. Every game they have scouting reports, so I try to make it hard for different players to check me," he added.
As Sykes enters his junior campaign, he becomes an upperclassman. With five freshmen on the squad, Sykes is embracing his new role as a leader and likes what he sees from the newcomers.
"Our freshmen came in and they are great listeners; they want to learn. They all work hard as individuals and teammates. I see them late at night shooting in the gym. They are putting in plenty of work," he said.
He will try to pass along his style of giving 100 percent at all times.
"I will teach them to play hard every possession and not to give up on plays. Every time you play to compete," he said. "You can't play this for life, so you might as well take advantage of every moment you step on the court, whether it is practice, pickup or workout. You give your all."