For Marist men’s basketball, losing a player to the pros is rare, yet it just happened with center Patrick Gardner signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
With the program now in search of a new on-court leader, second-year guard Isaiah Brickner is ready to help bring the MAAC title to the Hudson Valley after the team came up just short last March.
Coming off an impressive inaugural season with the Red Foxes, Brickner garnered some major MAAC attention. In the winter of 2023, he took home two MAAC Rookie of the Week honors, helping head coach John Dunne alleviate the high-pressure defense teams began deploying on star center Patrick Gardner.
The accolades weren’t limited to Poughkeepsie for Brickner. Following the Red Foxes’ improbable run to the championship game in Atlantic City during the 2023 MAAC Tournament, he was rewarded with a selection to the MAAC Championship Team.
Over four games on the boardwalk, Brickner tallied averages of 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 made three-pointers on an incredibly efficient 67% shooting from deep. He played an astonishing 31.0 minutes per game over that four-game stretch that included three games on back-to-back-to-back nights.
Prior to this season, Brickner already had a chip on his shoulder. He was selected to the Preseason ALL-MAAC Second Team. The focus for Brickner, however, is this season.
“We’re just trying to get back to [the championship game], our only goal is to win this league and win this MAAC tournament,” said Brickner.
Brickner was awarded MAAC All-Rookie First Team honors at the end of the ’22-23 season. For the second consecutive year the honor was given to a Red Fox, as in the ‘21-22 season, Jao Ituka, who is now at Wake Forest, was named to the MAAC All-Rookie First Team and MAAC Rookie of the Year.
As this season approaches, Dunne and his staff aim to get this program back to the glory days of the Rik Smits era. The process starts with prioritizing the growth of players considered to have untapped potential now and into the future, especially Isaiah Brickner.
“We’re an inexperienced team for sure, we have to put in the work and then gradually grow throughout the year,” said Dunne. “I’m going to call on Isaiah even though he’s a sophomore, he’s really not a sophomore, because he played high minutes last year as a freshman and went through all the wars and battles and stayed mentally strong [through the season].”
The MAAC conference continues to experience turnover, with defending champion Iona (who defeated Marist) featuring a new-look roster after former head coach Rick Pitino departed the program. On any given night, a MAAC team can win or lose due to parity within the conference. With Brickner and Marist looking to take advantage of the conference’s competitive nature, they must rely upon relationships built from last year to fuel success this season.
“We have a lot of returning guys, so we really know what it is going to take to get back to that championship game,” said Brickner. “Having [myself] and some of the other returning guys knowing what it takes, we have to bring that energy right away.”
Prior to playing at the collegiate level with Marist, Brickner, a San Diego, California native, led Saint Augustine High School in scoring, rebounds, and assists. He played three years of Varsity basketball in San Deigo, and according to verbalcommits.com, only garnered one D-I offer: Marist College.
Now, he is a big man on campus, and he feels as though he has adjusted quite well to life in the Hudson Valley.
“There’s definitely a lot of cool things to do out here; obviously the city is really close, so it’s cool to go out to the city with my friends [and] my teammates”, said Brickner. “I had to get used to the cold a little bit, but it’s not bad!”
Brickner is one of many Marist players to not just play high school basketball, but also take a highly-regarded prep year. He elected to play for Sunrise Christian Academy, located in Wichita, Kan. The same academy has trained and prepared top NBA talent such as Buddy Hield, Kennedy Chandler, Gradey Dick, and Shaedon Sharpe.
Brickner shot a team-best 85% from the free throw line while with Sunrise in the 2021-22 season. Taking his talent from San Diego, then to Kansas and finally to Poughkeepsie, Brickner has consistently excelled in the face of whatever challenge (or climate) has lied in front of him.
One of the best examples of this came early last season when Brickner rose to the occasion to make a great play against eventual Ivy League champion Princeton. Brickner drove past the initial defender and slammed down a furious dunk on top of a Tiger forward, leading to an outpouring of raw emotion from the bench. For Brickner, the play brings a smile to his face.
“That play was definitely cool for sure”, said Brickner. “That was one of my first home games, so feeling that energy from the crowd when I got that done was like nothing else.”
With his second season just a few days from getting underway, he hopes to have Marist fans on their feet time and again as his team pursues the ultimate goal: a MAAC conference championship.
Edited by Jimmy Tsiantoulas, Marley Pope and Luke Sassa
Graphic by Cara Lacey; Photos via Marist Athletics