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"I didn't believe my mom when she first told me," Isaiah recalls. But there was the man himself: praising Isaiah's style, handing him his number, building his confidence. (Isiah was flouting an NBA policy that forbids teams to have any communication with players who have remaining college eligibility, but no matter.) "The first thing I told him," says Isiah, who became the coach at Florida International that April, "was that what separates a good player from a bad player is how much that player believes in himself." The two have stayed in touch ever since, exchanging advice and aphorisms roughly once a week.