Final exams have been taken and the spring semester has ended at Murray State. But it may be a while before guard Isaiah Canaan leaves campus for a trip home to Biloxi, Miss.
“I actually haven’t been back since Christmas,” Canaan said.
Canaan simply doesn’t have time for a vacation -- at least not yet. After averaging 19 points during an All-America junior season, Canaan has been invited to some of the most prestigious summer camps in America.
He’s hoping his experiences the next few months elevate his game to an even higher level as a senior in 2012-13, when he’ll once again lead a Racers squad that finished 31-2 last season.
Canaan, who contemplated entering this summer’s NBA draft, spent 15 minutes answering questions with ESPN.com Thursday.
What are your plans for the summer? What camps will you be attending?
Isaiah Canaan: I’ve been invited to the Chris Paul camp, the Deron Williams camp and possibly LeBron’s camp. I’m also going to the Adidas Nations camp out in Los Angeles. That’s the reason I’ve stayed around school since classes ended. I’m working out with some of the coaches so I can get ready. The camps are going to be big for me, individually. And they’re also going to help me better this team.
How do you think the camps will benefit you the most?
IC: They’ll help me see where I am as a player. I’ll be around NBA players and some of the top college point guards in the country. I’m just looking forward to playing a lot of basketball, having fun and meeting new people. Just learning things from a professional player at the point guard position is going to be a huge benefit for me.
Even though you faced some good point guards at Murray State last season, did you ever catch yourself wondering how you’d do against some of the top players from bigger schools?
IC: You think about it from time to time, especially if you’re a competitor like I am. I want to play the best competition. I’m sure everyone across the country wonders how they’d match up with different people. But we had a lot going on with our team. My focus was on trying to make sure my team was doing the right things and winning games.
Who are some of the point guards you’re looking forward to getting to know and playing against this summer?
IC: A lot of the top point guards put their names in the draft, but there are still some good ones coming back. Aaron Craft (Ohio State) is one of them, especially with how well he plays defense. I’d like to see how my offensive game matches up with his defensive game. Pierre Jackson (Baylor) is really fast, so I can see how my defense matches up with him. The Kabongo kid at Texas ... I’d like to play him, too. I just want to play whoever is in front of me. Whoever it is, I’ll give it my all.
How tough of a decision was it for you to come back to school?
IC: I just really wanted to make the right decision, whether it was leaving or staying. You always dream about playing professionally, but when it’s right there in front of you, it’s hard to decide. I just wanted to make the right decision. I don’t regret deciding to stay at all. The NBA will be there. I look at it as a chance to better myself. I’ve got another whole year to get better. It’s my senior year. You can’t get that back. I’ve won three championships in a row. Why not finish it out and win a fourth? I’ve got great teammates. We’ll have a good team next year, especially with me staying. And we’ve got a great coach in Steve Prohm. This community here, the people love you. I just want to finish out school and graduate and go out the right way.
You mention the love you receive from the Murray State community. How do you feel it?
IC: As soon as I came here I felt like I’d been born and raised here. It’s a basketball town. They show a lot of love to the team and the players. They just want to see us go out and compete. That’s what we try to do. We try to play not just for ourselves, but for our coaches and our community and whoever else out there is a Murray State fan.
Even though you had a solid season as a sophomore, why do you think you were able to take that 'next step' and earn All-American honors as a junior?
IC: My hunger. I always want to be the best player I can be. I knew I had to step into a big role and that a lot of people were going to be counting on me. We had a lot of veterans graduating. Me being here and playing a lot as a freshman and having a pretty good sophomore season, expectations for me were high. I like challenges. I took it on during the offseason. I wanted to get better and come out and prove to people that I could carry a load, that I could do this, that I was a winner. I go out and play as hard as I can, whether someone like LeBron is on my team or someone I went to high school with. I just play the game the way I know how to play it.
You had such a good season that the casual fan may think, 'How is he going to top that?' What's the answer?
IC: It’s hard to follow a 31-2 season. But like I said, I like challenges. If that’s my next challenge, I’m going to take it on and try to conquer it. You can never be satisfied with your game. I feel like I can work on all areas of my game. So that’s what I’m going to do this offseason. I’m going to try to learn as much as possible at these camps, because I’m sure I’m going to see a lot of different things, a lot of different defenses next year. I’m going to watch a lot of tape from this past season so I can see different ways that I can get open and get my teammates open and be an overall better player.
What do you see when you look at the team Murray State has coming back?
IC: Each team I’ve been on has been different. My freshman year we went 31-5 and my sophomore year we went 29-7 and this year was 31-2. Each team has been different in it’s own way. Next year I feel like we’ll be a lot more athletic and a little bit faster. We’ll have five seniors, but we’ll be a lot younger overall than they’ve been. Some of the seniors that will play were guys that came off the bench last season. They’ll start, and our bench will be a lot younger. The seniors on this team will have to carry us. So overall I think we’ll be a lot faster and more athletic, but at the same time, probably a lot younger.
Are there any games you’re particularly looking forward to?
IC: We’ve got VCU at home, we’re going to play in the College of Charleston Classic with Baylor, we’re on the road going to Dayton and Evansville. We’ve got a tough schedule again this year. Everyone out there is going to be trying to beat us. We’re not the hunter anymore. We’re the hunted. We’ve got to be ready no matter who we play.
What would you like to do years from now, once your basketball career is over?
IC: My degree will be in business and advertising. I’d like to try to get some businesses off the ground or help a new business get noticed through some sort of advertising. I’d like to try to find different ways for businesses to make more money or to get more people to visit their business. There’s also a chance I may try to coach some day.
What else are you doing this summer besides working out and going to camps?
IC: I’m going to try to get home when I can. I love going fishing. Back at home I can walk to the end of my street and see the Gulf of Mexico. It’ll be fun to get back on the beach and hang with some of my friends and fish. And I’m looking forward to visiting my grandma, my mom and my dad.