Murray State's Canaan learning from NBA's best
MURRAY, Ky. (AP) Isaiah Canaan is working to put himself and Murray State in position to have a better senior year than his memorable run last season
The Racers point guard decided to return to school rather than pursue a professional career after leading Murray State to a top 10 ranking, a program-best 30-1 record and to the school's 15th NCAA tournament appearance before they lost 62-53 in the third round to Marquette.
Despite all the success, Canaan has not slowed his momentum since March.
He's spending the summer of his senior year learning from some of the best in the game, including NBA stars Chris Paul, LeBron James and Deron Williams.
"I was very blessed with the opportunity to be at Chris Paul's camp," Canaan said. "I had a great time and learned a lot playing with the best in the country. I established myself with a lot of people and a lot of NBA scouts that wanted to get a closer look. They all enjoyed me being up there and I learned a lot."
In addition to learning alongside the nation's leading point guards from Paul himself, Canaan showed his skills and lived out a dream in a matchup against Paul that had a surprising ending.
"Whether you believe it or not, I actually won the game 3-1," Canaan said. "Playing against one of the guys I idolized and I actually won."
After returning from Paul's camp, Canaan and fellow senior teammate Ed Daniel traveled to Chicago to participate in Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams camp where they learned from Williams and Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks.
This past weekend, Canaan and Daniel were at LeBron James' camp in Las Vegas, where they caught up with former Murray State guard Donte Poole. He is a Las Vegas native and helped lead the Racers to its 25th consecutive winning season last year during his senior year.
Canaan was able to watch the Olympic team practice.
He said he has been able to pick up a few things from the NBA's best, fans should expect the same things from Canaan.
"To be honest, I was surprised, they told me there wasn't much I needed to change to my game, just a couple pointers here and there including keep showing great leadership," Canaan said. "They all think I'm a football player, they said I was more fit than all of them. They really just told me to keep playing my game and take what I learned in the camps and apply it and be the same player that I am and be a three-point shooter here and there. I just want to become a better overall player so I'm going to work on every aspect."
That doesn't surprise Murray State head coach Steve Prohm.
"I'm just happy for those guys," Prohm said of Canaan and Daniel. "That's one thing I told them ... when I met with the team is when you put yourself in a position where you're winning it creates great opportunities for everyone involved and that's what this means for Isaiah and for Ed. Both of those guys hopefully will continue to win and stay on the national stage. (The camps) are good for our program but also for those players."
Despite what he learned from the pros, Canaan is focused on one thing.
"Basically I'm working on creating great bonds with my teammates trying to teach them the ropes of what Murray State is all about," Canaan said. "I'm just trying to teach the rest of the team what I learned over the camps and trying to give back and do whatever I can to make this team successful."
Team bonding for the Racers this summer includes pool parties, paint balling, bowling and cookouts while balancing a summer workout schedule and summer classes.
"We have a whole list of get-togethers," said Canaan, who went home to Biloxi, Miss., at the end of June for two days for the first time since December. "We're trying everything we can to get this team better and like last year and try to repeat what we did. We're just trying to get our chemistry right, take a couple classes and work out hard."
The team is not the only thing coming together at Murray State.
The school is building a state-of-the-art practice facility for the men's and women's basketball programs that will house the men's and women's coaches, administrative assistants and operations directors.
"It's on schedule, we're moving along briskly and hope to have it completed in January," Murray State athletic director Allen Ward said. "We're very excited about it and it's going to be a much-needed improvement and a really nice enhancer to our program coming off a very special season."
Updated July 9, 2012