If the coronavirus pandemic had not shut down the NBA combine, there’s a chance Isaac Likekele might not be returning to Oklahoma State.
However, the OSU point guard won’t have a chance to showcase his talents and see where he ranks for professional scouts. Thus, his sophomore season won’t be his last in a Cowboy uniform.
The Arlington, Texas, native announced via Twitter with a video that he will be returning for his junior campaign. On Thursday, he talked to a handful of media members via video teleconference about his decision and what led him to consider turning professional.
“There wasn’t necessarily too much of a process of what I was going to do, but moreso of what was going on with the situation of the NBA,” Likekele said. “First off, in my situation, it definitely didn’t help me as a player if there was no combine.
“Pretty much after we figured out there was no combine, we kind of knew it was wraps for me and time to come on back. There was other situations, but I felt personally it was my choice at the end of the day.”
Likekele didn’t disclose what those other situations were, just saying he can’t speak on those. However, he did say that if the NBA combine was still happening, he most likely would have gone but not hired an agent.
This would have given him the opportunity to return to OSU, but also find out where he stacks up when it comes to what scouts are looking for at the next level.
“That would have been perfect for me,” Likekele said. “If I would have entered it this year, that’s what I feel like it would have been more for. Normally people that go to the draft, that’s not their first time there. I feel like right now would have been a perfect time for me to go, experience it and hear things from scouts in person – get that first-person info.”
Likekele said he talked to people close to him, along with OSU men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton. He said the fourth-year coach is always someone he wants to talk to before making a final decision, even if Boynton tells him it’s not his choice to make.
Yet, he trusts what Boynton tells him. They both agreed it would be a smart decision to return to OSU for the 2020-21 season.
They came to that decision after an up-and-down season for Likekele. He had a good start to the season, but missed a month from late November to the nonconference finale in late December with an illness.
Likekele later admitted it took him a while to get back in shape and get used to the game during the Big 12 Conference slate of the season. Yet, he felt good about the way he finished the season, which included making the final bucket – a game-winning layup – in the Cowboys’ last game of the season.
“I started out great and then midseason I had a drop-off that really hurt me, but then I finished off the season really good,” Likekele said. “The whole time I knew in my mind that I wanted to come back for a third year for sure, personally, because I feel like I owe it to the city of Stillwater to leave something for them to remember me by. Not me personally, but be part of a team that leaves something for them to remember you.
“At the end of the year when I looked back on things, I knew in my head I wanted to come back, because I got way more of my game to polish up and I got way more things I can add to my game. I’ve got a lot more growing up to do at the point guard position, especially when I’m trying to play at the next level. I feel like there are a lot of things I can learn. … I was always expecting to come back, but I didn’t know that I had certain situations that could possibly happen that I had no idea about.”
One other reason Likekele wanted to return to OSU was he wanted to improve his own game. The big thing he wants to improve is his shooting game, especially from the mid-range and the 3-point line.
“I feel like the second level is something I need to be comfortable at throughout the season,” Likekele said. “… Definitely need to polish up my catch and shoot from 3. I need to be able to catch and shoot from 3 more consistently. I just need to show I can do it.”
Likekele said he has an undisclosed location where he’s working out during this pandemic. He said he’s working on his shot.
“You have to get shots up,” Likekele said. “That’s all you can do.”
Another key reason for his return is he feels like he owe a lot to Stillwater and OSU.
“Coming out of high school, being so underrated, Stillwater and the staff just embraced me from the moment I came in, even though I wasn’t the usual Power 5 recruit,” Likekele said. “They took a chance on me and they supported me from day one. I felt the love from day one.”