Matthew Ho is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News sports columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Every time I’ve talked to one of the players or coaches in the Cal Poly men’s basketball program, there’s one thing that always stands out: togetherness.
Even in a year where the team struggled to win games and particularly close them out, the team stayed together through adversity.
Their efforts could come to fruition as soon as next season, as Head Coach John Smith and the coaching staff have recruited four impact players into the program. Isaac Spears is one of those players.
A true sophomore with a pro game that can create his own shot and finish above the rim.
Height/weight: 6’4, 170 lbs.
Previous school: Montana State
Eligibility: three years remaining
2021-22 season stats: 1.3 points, 0.3 rebounds in 32 total minutes played
Isaac Spears comes to Cal Poly after not playing much at Montana State last season. At Cal Poly, he will have the opportunity to come in and be a key player. He provides a scoring punch on offense with his off-the-dribble shooting and ability to slash and get to the basket.
“[Spears] shores up our scoring depth,” Coach Smith said.
Coach Smith has high hopes for Spears, who he thinks can be an “All-Conference player by his second or third year.”
It’s easy to see what Coach Smith is talking about. The framework is there for Spears to become one of the best guards in the Big West. He has plus height and athleticism at the guard spot and possesses the skill and talent to maximize it all.
It’s hard to take much away from his stint at Montana State due to his lack of playing time. Coming out of high school, Spears was a top-40 guard in the country according to 24/7 Sports and one of the best players in Arizona.
He hasn’t had much experience playing at the Division-I level yet, which makes Cal Poly a great fit for Spears. The team has guards that can handle a majority of the ball-handling duties and steady the offense while Spears focuses more on his strength as a player: his ability to score.
Spears also can use senior big man Alimamy Koroma’s gravity out of the post to get catch and shoot looks and utilize his quick release to get his shot off. In high school, he also showed he can score as a cutter out of high and low post sets. Because of his positional size at the guard spot, he’ll be able to finish over smaller defenders.
Coach Smith said Spears could work on “learning how to play with pace” and cutting down his turnovers, but over the course of the season, he could develop into a player the Mustangs can lean into for perimeter creation. It would be a huge bonus if he can tap into his offensive potential this early.
Defense often has a learning curve for younger players, as the Mustangs’ scheme requires knowing different coverages and being aware as an off-ball defender at all times. Spears will likely have to navigate screens at the point of attack and try to get back in front, which could be tough to learn at the start, but the team has a strong defensive culture that could help bring him along.
Spears could be a huge X factor for the Mustangs next season. If he can find his footing at the Division-I level season, particularly on offense, he could help the team make a deep run in the conference tournament. The team has a defensive foundation and just needs a player who creates shots. Spears can be that player.