By Chris McCarthy/ Editor/Publisher
Hokes Bluff High senior basketball standout Isaac Haas will spend the next four years honing his cage skills on the national stage in West Lafayette, Ind.
Haas, who originally committed to Wake Forest in September, signed a national letter of intent with Purdue University on Wednesday (Nov. 20) at the HBHS gym.
“It’s been such a great experience getting to know all the coaches and so many people,” said Haas. “I think that [Purdue men’s head basketball] coach [Matt] Painter has some great things in the future. With all the additions that Purdue has made to the program and the school, it’s going to be a great situation for me. Just the fact that they put so many big men in the NBA, it’s a high Division I school Big 10 school and they’re always on TV.
“It’s a little far from home, but I’ll be fine and I really can’t wait to get up there show the nation what I’m made of. Just the challenge that’s waiting for me is going to drive me and motivate me to become a better player.”
Haas, who maintains a 4.0 GPA, drew interest from Ivy League schools. He plans on studying either biomedical engineering or sports medicine.
“Purdue’s engineering program is tops in the country, but either way, you can’t go wrong with either major,” he said.
“The first school to visit Isaac, other than UAB, was Harvard,” said HBHS boys head basketball coach Greg Watkins. “They and Columbia wanted him bad early on. My advice to Isaac during the whole [recruiting] process was that he should make his decision based on who wants him the most and where he thought he’d fit in the best.
“Isaac’s worked extremely hard to get to this point, and I’m very proud for him. I’ve known Isaac since he’s been 10 or 11 years old, and he’s a great kid and a great student and I think he’ll do great things at Purdue.”
“Haas joins a Boilermaker squad that last season went 16-18 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten Conference. Over the last seven years, Purdue has posted six 20-win seasons while earning six NCAA Tournament berths, two Sweet 16 appearances, a regular-season Big Ten Conference title and a Big Ten Conference Tournament championship.
“We’ve never had a Division I basketball player, so this is something special for Isaac and his family also special for the Hokes Bluff school and community,” said Watkins. “This day has come with a lot of hard work, a lot of hours and a lot of sweat on Isaac’s part. If he does what he’s supposed to do, at the very least he’ll earn an education.”
The 7’2, 285-pound Haas was good for 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game while last season helping the Eagles post a 20-10 record and the win the 4A, Area 11 Tournament title. Haas made Class 3A All-state second team, the All-Etowah County first team and the All-Messenger first team.
As a sophomore, Haas made the All-Messenger first team after collecting 167 rebounds and 306 points.
Watkins, who has coached basketball for five years at Gaston and the past 20 at Hokes Bluff, noted that Haas stood out from the many players he’s coached.
“I think everyone who saw him in the 7th grade knew Isaac was going to be a tall kid, but what surprised me is how much he’s developed his skills, and that goes back to his hard work. You can be a 7-footer and just collect dust, but Isaac’s worked to the point where his feet and his hands are really good.
“I give [assistant coach] Jeff Noah a ton of credit for that. He worked with Isaac for four years as a post coach, and he’s helped developed Isaac a great deal. I think that height-wise, Isaac’s finished growing, but I think he’s going to carry more weight when he gets into their program. I think he can carry about 20 more pounds at that level.”
Haas and his Eagle teammates have set the bar high for this season.
“Our expectations are to get to Jacksonville first and then get that [state championship] ring. With the new offense we’ve put in, I think we’ll be really great this year. I think I’ve been seeing the court better, along with my physicality and the ability to lead the team.
“Defensively, we’re more athletic, and I think we’ll have a chance to have a great run and set history in Hokes Bluff.”
This story was supplemented by purduesports.com.