RISING STAR Freshman sensation already making his mark for 'Canes

New Castle's Isaiah Boice dribbles up the floor during a home game against Blackhawk.

If you haven’t seen Isaiah Boice play for the New Castle High boys basketball team yet, Ralph Blundo says you’re missing out.

“This community’s going to fall in love with this kid over the next three years,” the Red Hurricane coach said of his 5-foot-11 freshman swingman.

Boice has come on like gangbusters in his first year on the varsity team. Last week, he scored 29 points in a pair of huge WPIAL Section 2-4A wins — 14 in a 55-50 win over Blackhawk and 15 in a 63-46 decision over Ambridge. He hit four 4-pointers in each game and contributed numerous rebounds, assists and steals as well.

For his effort, Boice has been named Lawrence County’s athlete of the week by the New Castle News sports staff.

Blundo said he has had his eye on Boice for quite some time.

“I started watching him in third, fourth and fifth grade,” Blundo said. “He seemed to mature late. By seventh grade, though, he really started to come into his own.”

Boice averaged about 20 points per game as an eighth-grader playing on the ninth-grade team last season.

When it came time to begin preparing for the 2019-20 season, Blundo and his staff knew that Boice and 5-6 freshman Jonathon Anderson needed to come up with the varsity.

But while Blundo knew that Boice had the skills to start as a freshman, he refused to throw him to the wolves by putting him in the starting lineup for the opener against Westinghouse in the New Castle Tipoff Tournament.

“I could see in the fall that he was going to be one of our top five players, but I didn’t feel that it would serve him well to start the first game of the year,” Blundo said. “I’ve never had a freshman start the first game of the year in my (10) years here, not even Malik (Hooker) or Anthony (Richards) or Marcus (Hooker). I’m not going to throw a freshman at New Castle out there in front of 1,500 people his first night.”

A night later, against Sharon in the Tipoff Tournament, though, Boice took his place in the starting lineup and he hasn’t left since.

“What makes Isaiah be Isaiah is his motor,” Blundo said. “When I look back at the many great players that we have coached ... Shawn (Anderson), Malik, etc., the one characteristic that they all had was a great motor to go with their talent. I don’t know how Isaiah’s career is going to evolve, but I do know that he has that same motor to go with his talent.

“Like all of the greats, Isaiah doesn’t like to lose,” he added. “You add an incredible work ethic to that and throw in his God-given talent and the possibilities for him are endless.”

Blundo said it is a joy to get to practice every day to get to work with Boice and his teammates.

“He is just a great kid to coach,” he said. “Every day he tries to adjust and fix the things that need fixing. Just how much time he spends in the gym is a tribute to his commitment and work ethic.

“Isaiah guards our opponent’s best player. When that happens as a freshman, it means two things — you play really hard and you play really smart. And you’re willing to adjust.

“On offense, he picks his spots,” Blundo added. “He doesn’t take many bad shots. He plays 32 minutes every game. It’s hard to take him off the floor because of how engaged he is at all times. He reminds me of Marquel Hooker — he exhausts himself when he’s on the court. He leaves the court just totally worn out.”

Blundo said that the son of Michael and Simonae Boice also is a baseball star.

“He’s just the kind of kid who’s good at everything he does,” Blundo said. “He’s a kind kid who cares about other people. His classmates admire and like him. There could be some envy with a freshman stepping into the starting lineup like that, but there doesn’t appear to be any. He just has the type of disposition where he’s liked and respected.

“I can’t wait to see what is in store for him.”

kcubbal@ncnewsonline.com

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