Isler brings football toughness to the basketball court
The story of Leroy Isler starts in New York – that much is true. But what most people don’t know is that the story didn’t exactly begin where his Trojan bio states.
“Actually, I was born in Harlem, but I was raised in Brooklyn so I claim Brooklyn,” Isler said. “Nobody knows that about me. Everyone thinks I was born in Brooklyn.”
Isler’s path has taken him from New York to Lee College (a junior college in Texas) and then finally UALR, where he has become an important part of the Trojan basketball team.
The decision to attend school so far from New York gave him a sense of independence and toughness.
“I’m glad I got to live on my own, to try to do things on my own and not depend on other people. I think that’s the reason why I’m tough, cause I did it by myself. I didn’t have to ask or beg anybody for anything,” he said.
UALR head coach Steve Shields knows what Isler means to the team. “Leroy was voted by his teammates as a captain. I think that speaks volumes about the way his teammates feel about him,” Shields said. According to Shields, Isler has defended the opposing team’s top perimeter threat for past two years.
The senior guard is known as the team’s best on-the-ball defender – a role that he doesn’t take lightly. “A lot of people don’t want to play defense; everybody wants to score,” Isler said. “I know that I can score the ball, but that’s not my job.”
“I’d rather shut somebody down that was averaging 30 and hold them to 10, than score 30 and give up 40 from them. I’d just rather play defense,” he said.
Isler’s penchant for defense can be traced to his love of football. As a young child, Isler lived with his mom and moved multiple times from New York to Georgia and back. It was while living in Georgia that Isler started playing football and discovered his desire to defend. Isler played safety and cornerback on defense.
“I loved playing defense. That’s how I got motivated – by getting stops,” he said. It’s what gave him the passion for defense.
As for his feelings about being labeled the team’s defensive-stopper: “I wouldn’t mind having that label. It shows toughness, courage,” he said.
In his junior year of high school, Isler moved to New York permanently with his father and focused on playing basketball, not by choice, but because of regional differences between Georgia and New York. Isler was told that he should play basketball.
“Because football is not big in New York like it is down south, so I switched over to basketball,” Isler said.
After two years of high school basketball and two years playing at a junior college, Isler made his way to UALR last season. Isler averaged 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds last season.
The Trojans will need Isler’s defense and toughness to get them prepared for the upcoming Sun Belt Conference tournament and to end the season on a positive note. “I just want to win. It’s my job stopping the best offensive player on the opposite team from here on out,” Isler said.
Isler has hopes that the team will come together for the end of the season. “When we play together, we’re a pretty good team.”
Drawing the tough defensive assignment is a role Coach Shields said Isler has embraced. He has brought intensity, work ethic, toughness and leadership to the team, Shields said. But what Shields is most proud of, is how Isler has represented the program over the past two years.
“He’s on track to graduate in May. That’s not always easy for a junior college transfer to do. It shows the type of character that he has,” Shields said.