Isaiah Sulack’s road to Marist men’s basketball is a prime example of the road less traveled.
Being a walk-on scout team member at the University of Tennessee was far from Sulack’s first stop in his college basketball career. Before even touching the floor for Tennessee, he worked his way through junior college ball and community college levels. Now at Marist, after all the things that have happened in his career, why does he keep going?
“God’s opened up so many doors and he wouldn’t bring me this far to not keep going,” said Sulack.
Sulack, residing in Knoxville, Tennessee, attended Christian Academy of Knoxville, where the guard averaged 17 points, seven rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game in his senior season in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Despite the strong season Sulack decided it was best if he attended a junior college, a similar route to former Marist men’s basketball star Patrick Gardner.
Before taking the junior college route, Sulack played his first year of collegiate basketball at Olney Central College in Illinois, and averaged 12 points as a freshman.
After the season, he decided to move on and attended Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. After only playing four games in the 2019-2020 season due to injury, Sulack figured it was best to redshirt.
He graduated from the two-year community college in the Spring of 2020, and decided to come back to his home state, where he walked-on at the University of Tennessee.
Sulack redshirted his first season at Tennessee in 2020-2021 because of the injury he suffered at Bossier Parish. When he returned he became a scout team member for Tennessee’s men’s basketball team.
“There’s nothing quite like going against future NBA players every day and just making sure they’re prepared for games and just getting to know how much detail goes into scouting other teams and learning that way. So I think that helps me as a player today,” said Sulack. “Just knowing different tendencies you look at and what you look for when you’re watching film on the opposing team. So I think it was just a great experience.”
Still a walk-on in the 2021-2022 season, Sulack was awarded action in three games in his sophomore season. He played a total of five minutes and didn’t record a point.
That January, his season changed for the worse.
Sulack suffered a gruesome injury in practice, he mentioned that he collided with one of his teammates who was going after a loose ball. The guard suffered fractures in three orbital bones, had a concussion and ended up having three plates into his face during surgery. The injury forced him to stay off the court for an entire year.
“How I overcame it was honestly my faith in God, and God giving me strength to get through a lot of it. He (God) has a bigger plan for our future even when we don’t see it and then family and friends are always there for you, supporting you and just loving.”
Sulack finally made his return to action at the start of last season. Still a walk-on, Sulack played in three games last season, two of them being against South Carolina. He ended up recording his first college points against the Gamecocks on an “and one” play last February.
Despite the limited play, Sulack was with the team for their NCAA tournament run last season. In last season’s madness, Tennessee made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to No.9 Florida Atlantic University.
“It was amazing. There’s nothing quite like March Madness because you never know what’s gonna happen. Anybody can win on any given day.” said Sulack. “So you have to be prepared and then the atmosphere of every game is like the last second shot, it’s one you dream of, being in March Madness when you’re a kid and just being able to see that and experience that is awesome.”
After taking part in the journey to the Sweet Sixteen, Sulack had a difficult choice to make. He commented there were reports that Tennessee was going to offer him a scholarship, but due to players coming back for their fifth year of NCAA eligibility and the transfer portal, there were limited spots left for him.
“I was trying to get a scholarship at Tennessee and there was talk about them giving me one. They convinced me to stay for a couple more weeks in the spring to see if they wanted to give me a scholarship. Tennessee brought in two transfers and brought back two of the Covid-year guys,” said Sulack.
Riley Collins–one of the Graduate Assistants at Tennessee–helped Sulack combine practice film, and it fell right into the lap of one of his New Jersey connections on the Marist men’s basketball team.
“It was a good opportunity just to leave and go look for other opportunities. One of the GAs there, Riley Collins, who is from New Jersey, helped me put together some practice film and just send it out to coaches. Dalip [Bhatia] got a hold of it and contacted me and I guess they liked what I saw.” said Sulack
As Sulack mentioned, Marist men’s basketball assistant coach Dalip Bhatia was adamant about getting Sulack here in Poughkeepsie, almost 800 miles from home.
“Coach identified some areas that we need to improve on from a basketball perspective and obviously, we need to add some high-level shooting and his ability to shoot the ball at six-five was a very attractive trait for us.” said Bhatia. “On a day to day basis, he was practicing against SEC athletes and getting good practice time there. So, we were all excited about those qualities.”
Marist men’s basketball head coach John Dunne was looking for shooting in the portal, a category the Red Foxes were ninth out of the 11 MAAC teams last year. Sulack’s ability to shoot the ball at his height created intrigue between the coaching staff, especially Dunne.
“We wanted to address one of our weaknesses from last year, which was consistent shooting,” said Dunne, “When Isaiah [Sulack] became available, Dalip brought it to my attention. We knew that he could shoot the ball, so we made him a priority.”
Sulack looks to bring the experience he learned at his past institutions, as well as the culture and leadership he learned at Tennessee, here to Marist, in hopes of leading this team to a MAAC championship.
Edited by Dan Aulbach and Jimmy Tsiantoulas
Graphic Credit: Jaylen Rizzo
Photo Credit: Marist Athletics