National Player of the Year Isaiah Collier on Committing to USC, Handling the Spotlight and Making His Game Complete
Isaiah Collier might soon get used to having rappers and Heisman Trophy winners sitting courtside at his games, in college at USC next season or in the NBA after that. But when he took the court in his soon-to-be home gym in L.A. back in January, the star-studded crowd was a bit of a novelty. And a memorable one.
“We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but it was a great experience,” Collier says after his Wheeler (GA) High squad fell to SoCal power Sierra Canyon at USC’s Galen Center while 2 Chainz, Lil Dicky, Caleb Williams and other luminaries looked on. “Seeing all those celebrities courtside, the attention leading up to the game, it was new to me, and it was definitely intense. But it was great.”
The crowd was drawn in large part by a Sierra Canyon roster dotted with names like Hardaway, Pippen and James, of course, but the savvy fans in the building knew all about Collier, too. The 6-4, 205-pound lead guard is a consensus top-five player in the 2023 class—and depending on which ranking you check, you might just find him at No. 1. He didn’t have his best game in L.A., but even on an off night—he scored 17 in the loss—he showed plenty of signs of the skill set that made him arguably the most coveted prospect in the country.
The Trojans secured Collier’s commitment last November, and also signed his Wheeler teammate, top-60 big man Arrinten Page. They’re now a squad that could challenge for Pac-12 and national honors next spring. For Collier, the draw of L.A. was less about bright lights and famous fans than the chance to be near family and thrive in a system perfectly suited to his game.
“I got a lot of family out there—my brother and uncle, a lot of my cousins, they’re really all in L.A.,” he says. “And definitely Coach [Andy] Enfield, the program they have, I want to help get them to a Final Four and play that style they ran back at Florida Gulf Coast. I still watch those ‘Dunk City’ March Madness highlights on YouTube—all the dunks.”
Collier is indeed the sort of player a coach can build a championship contender around. Strong and savvy, he’s an athletic guard and great passer who plays aggressive but under control. Asked to name role models for his game, he offers the unlikely combination of Chris Paul—“his high IQ, getting teammates involved, the way he uses the pick and roll”—and Ja Morant—“a little bit, not as athletic, but always attacking the rim.”
Collier won’t call his game “complete” just yet—in particular, he knows his jump shot is still a work in progress—but he’s shown more than enough on some of the biggest stages at the prep level to justify the lofty ranking and high expectations. It was his run last summer that confirmed just how good he is and could still be. Coming off a knee injury, he snatched MVP honors at both Stephen Curry Camp and Under Armour Elite 24, then dominated on the EYBL circuit. He still has unfinished business at Wheeler—a state championship was understandably at the top of his senior year to-do list—but as far as individual high school résumés, Collier’s is stacked.
That résumé brings welcomed benefits—like the coveted photo shoot, seen here, he wrapped up a couple of days before our call—as well as attention that could derail a player lacking his focus and family support system. But in either case, Collier is good. “I’d say it’s a blessing, but I don’t really pay attention to all that,” he says. “It’s great to be recognized, and it’s also having a target on your back, getting everybody’s best game. But it doesn’t really impact me. I’ve got bigger goals in mind.”
Portraits by Matt Odom.