GENESEO - Geneseo Maple Leafs boys coach Brad Storm recalls when he first saw Isaiah Rivera play basketball. "I remember seeing him as a young kid playing and the way he would shoot after the high school games," said Storm. "He was a kid who was different from the rest. You knew he was the kind of kid who would be good, you just didn't know how good," he added. "Then when you saw the dedication he had, you knew he'd be a special one."
Rivera is now a 6-4 senior halfway through his final season at Geneseo. He already reached an elite status last season at the school by breaking the Maple Leafs career scoring record set by Dave Anderson in the late 1970s. Then he signed a letter of intent to attend Colorado State University last fall. But at the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament at DeKalb last month, Rivera surpassed the 2,000 point career mark.
Friday night, in ceremonies held before a Western Big 6 Conference home game with Galesburg, Rivera was honored for the achievement which has been surpassed by only about 150 players in the history of Illinois High School basketball. "It means a lot," said Rivera of the honor. "I'm glad all the work I've put in has paid off. A lot of good people helped push me. I'm thankful for that."
"I've seen guys do it before and it was always something I wanted to do," he said of his achievement. "But it wasn't something I thought about a lot. It just happened." Although Rivera scored 30 points in adding to his still-climbing career total, the Maple Leafs suffered a 71-50 loss to Galesburg. But that did little to diminish the memories of the games Rivera had starred in.
"We didn't plan on starting him right away," recalled Storm of Rivera's freshman year when his playing career began. "But we had an injury to our point guard right before the season started and things took off from there. There's been a ton of memories but even though it seems like a quick four years, it's been a lot of memories he's made." "I remember as a freshman in the Thanksgiving tourney he put us on his shoulders and carried us. I knew there'd be a lot more like that and there have been."
And Rivera is far from done. He is averaging 26.7 points per game to lead the Western Big 6 Conference this season with 52 percent shooting from the floor (152-290), 74 percent from the free throw line (118-160), 36 percent on 3-pointers (33-92) and an average of 10.1 rebounds per game. "There's some games I'll remember with this team - the Rock Island game and the UT (United Township) game," said Rivera. "But we're not anywhere near our potential. We've got a lot left we want to do."
Geneseo's loss to Galesburg knocked them from sole possession of first place in the WB6 to a tie for the lead with Rock Island. Both teams are 4-1. The Leafs are 12-5 overall... Galesburg led the game 19-14 at the quarter and 39-28 at half but saw its lead trimmed to 51-45 late in the third quarter... .Scheduled to play at Macomb on Tuesday, the Leafs will make their first-ever trip to Quincy on Friday. "Hopefully not knowing that type of atmosphere down there will be to our benefit," said Storm. "Sterling went down not knowing anything about it and got a win on the road."