Article written by Tom Haley and published in the Rutland Herald on March 6, 2019.
Charles Isaac, a Floridian who had never seen snow, never visited College of St. Joseph before coming to school here two years ago for his junior year.
"I was kind of nervous. It was my first time far from home," Isaac said last week.
He was in his comfort zone at Pasco Hernando State College, a junior college an hour from his home in Tampa.
He played basketball for Pasco in an environment where all the players knew one another from high school.
But after two years at Pasco, where he scored 997 points for the Bobcats, it was off to the great unknown, a campus that is covered in snow throughout the season.
It did not take him long to acclimate.
"It was during preseason conditioning that first year that I felt safe. I felt at home," Isaac said.
He made himself so at home that he wound up scoring more than 1,000 points at CSJ, scoring 2,071 points in his four years of college basketball.
It was an incredible night on Feb. 9, when he reached the 2,000-point milestone, a bright light in a dismal season that saw the Fighting Saints finish with a 6-23 record.
The Saints defeated Central Maine Community College in that game, a team ranked No. 11 nationally among United States Collegiate Athletic Association schools. Isaac had 32 points, 14 rebounds and was also stellar at the other end with four steals and two blocked shots.
Other schools courted Isaac when he was at Pasco. Southern University and Bethune-Cookman were among them.
But they offered only partial scholarships.
"I got a great package from here," Isaac said.
He also felt wanted. CSJ coach Zo Howlett left no doubt in Isaac's mind about how much CSJ wanted him.
"He called me every day, constantly, even on holidays," Isaac said. "We wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to land him," Howlett said.
The night at home against Central Maine was Senior Night — an occasion Isaac will never forget.
He recalls the shot that scored his 2,000th point.
"It was a mid-range shot from the wing," Isaac said. "The game was stopped. It was very, very nice."
No family was in attendance but CSJ streamed the game and his mother watched it back home in Florida.
It's funny the twists that life takes. It was not always about basketball for Isaac.
"At first, it was football," he said.
He played a little basketball growing up, but it was just playing at the park, nothing organized.
Then, at Howard W. Blake, a public high school in Tampa, he was noticed by the basketball coach. He began playing basketball for the Yellow Jackets that freshman year and by the time he was a junior it became clear to him that was his sport, the one where he received interest from recruiters.
He stopped playing football to concentrate on basketball his junior year.
"At that point I was being recruited and knew that was the one I needed to be committed to," he said.
He really did commit himself to getting better.
"What it came down to was that CSJ was the best fit money-wise," I said.
And so he came to Vermont, sight unseen.
"It sounded good," Isaac said.
It has been good. Isaac said if he could go back, he would do it again.
"Coach Zo and I have had our ups and downs, but I would definitely do it again," Isaac said.
Howlett credits his assistant coach Britton Newchurch for making the initial contact with Isaac.
Howlett said, despite the record, it has been a great run and very good for Isaac.
"He has been a leader on and off the floor," Howlett said. "He has done well academically.
"He has been a great practice player, bringing high energy to both ends of the floor.
"He will graduate and probably get in the Hall of Fame."
This season, Isaac averaged 32 points per game along with six rebounds and two steals.
Isaac said he works hardest on his defense because offense has always come naturally.
"Defense has been my focus," he said.
He will pick up his degree in Sports Management in May, but sees more basketball in his future.
"My goal is to play at the pro level — anywhere," he said.
That might mean playing pro basketball in Europe.
He plans on going back to Tampa after graduation and take it from there.
But he did enjoy his two years in Rutland.
"I am not the going-out type. I kept to my room mostly and went to class. But when I did go out, I thought this was a pretty nice city," Isaac said.
He might return someday for a Hall of Fame induction, but there will be a reminder of him on campus before that. Athletic Director Cam Curler is in the process of creating a display for the trophy case that will include a basketball with Isaac's autograph and the number of points on it, as well as his jersey.
The one regret might be that 6-23 record.
"We started off strong in the first two or three games. We played as a team, as one," Isaac said. "I thought we had a shot to make some noise.
"What happened? I can't quite put my finger on it."
But then there was that night they beat CMCC. Isaac believes that game was indicative of what the Fighting Saints could have been.
"When we put it together, we could play with anyone," he said.
Isaac is just glad he got to experience, the good, the bad, the whole package.
After all, like he said, he would do it all again.