Isaiah Wilkins gains attention in his own right

It has happened more than once this season. An opposing player will get a steal and cruise in for what is expected to be an uncontested layup, when out of nowhere a long arm will reach around and swat it away.

It’s a regular form of introduction from “King Zaaa,” known to his non-Twitter followers as Isaiah Wilkins, a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian School. He was adopted by Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins after Wilkins married Isaiah’s mother.

“He’s totally about defense,” GAC coach Eddie Martin said. “He loves to block shots. To him the blocked shot is more exciting than the slam dunk.”

That’s remarkable when you consider that Dominique Wilkins is known for his gravity-defying dunks. Wilkins is considered one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history, but was not frequently praised for his defense. That’s not the case with the lanky Isaiah Wilkins.

Wilkins is quick on his feet and plays hard in GAC’s hard-nosed defensive scheme. At 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Wilkins is slender, but his long arms and good vertical leap give him the tools to make opponents cringe when they bring it inside.

“Defensively he’s ready to play at the next level,” Martin said. “His offense is coming around, but he gets more excited about defense.

Wilkins has potential on offense; he’s had a pretty good model to follow. He said that Dominique, who came into his life when he was in the sixth grade, was free with his advice and later engaged in regular one-on-one games in the driveway — at least until Isaiah began to win. “He wouldn’t play me anymore,” he laughed.

While he is capable of some eye-opening dunks, Wilkins developed a consistent mid-range jump shot that often is missing. He can even step back and shoot the 3-pointer, where his accuracy is 40 percent. He averages 18.5 points.

He scored 17 points and four blocked shots Tuesday and helped the Class AA No. 1-ranked Spartans to a 71-18 win over Westminster. ranks Wilkins as the No. 123 player in the nation. ESPN ranks him as the 62nd-best small forward. He was recently named MVP as GAC won the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. Wilkins scored 20 points in the championship game and had a key defensive stop near the end.

He committed to Virginia in September, notifying the world via Twitter; former GAC teammate Malcolm Brogdon currently plays for the Cavaliers. Wilkins’ other offers included Auburn, Clemson, FSU, Miami and George Mason. But his thoughts these days are focused on helping GAC defend its state championship.

“Last year was so great, and to go out with a bang and win it my senior year would be great,” Wilkins said.

Martin, who previously coached standouts Jodi Meeks and Gani Lawal, said Wilkins belongs in that same category.

“He’s right up there with everyone of them,” Martin said. “And he’s such a quality kid. He’s going to be successful at whatever he does.”

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