Charlotte men's basketball sophomore guard Isaiah Folkes recorded his first career start on Thursday, Feb. 16, against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. He helped lead the 49ers to a 68-64 win with 10 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes of play.
The 49ers are currently 14-10 and 5-9 in Conference USA (C-USA) play and are preparing for the final stretch of C-USA with a positive mindset.
Before Thursday's game, Head Coach Ron Sanchez said Folkes continues to take steps in his game.
"I think his role will continue to grow; he has been earning more time and responsibility. If he can continue to be the best he can defensively, I think he will play a big role for us," said Sanchez.
Folkes said he continues to find his stride on the court.
"I'm getting more comfortable on all aspects of the floor, like with my shooting, dribbling and making the right reads," Folkes said. "I feel myself getting more comfortable and learning more and getting smarter."
Folkes attended Middleburg Academy in Virginia and helped the school reach the state semifinals in 2020. Folkes said he learned much about himself on and off the court throughout high school.
"High school turned me into what I am today. It gave me a lot of confidence off and on the court," Folkes said. "With people knowing my name and little kids wanting to take pictures. I feel like once I got here, it was a culture shock because you aren't the man no more. You notice that you have to get better. My confidence dropped slightly, but I feel that I picked it back up once I learned college basketball."
When Folkes was in his senior year of high school, there were three universities where he could have continued his basketball career. He committed to the 49ers in November 2020, jumping to the program after academy play halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact on and off the court
Folkes said his philosophy in practice and his value of teamwork helped his improvements. He does not view his role on the team individually; instead, he focuses on being the best teammate possible.
"Get better, practice hard, push my teammates and make them uncomfortable on the offensive end so they can do the same to me when I'm dribbling the ball on offense," Folkes said. "To come off the bench, bring energy. Guard the best player, get in the paint and create shots for my teammates," Folkes said.
Folkes playing time has increased throughout the 2022-23 season, appearing in every game.
Sanchez said Folkes brings energy to the team on the court while his role develops.
"Isaiah is like an energizer bunny when he decides that he wants to dig into the ball and create his own offense via his defense, he really does inject the team with a lot of energy," said Sanchez.
Folkes said the goal is to bring a championship back home to Charlotte.
"To win the conference championship and make it to the NCAA tournament and be the best teammate I can be for my teammates and be the best I can in my role," Folkes said.
Folkes and the 49ers will be back in action on Thursday, Feb. 23, when they take on the University of North Texas Mean Green. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside Halton Arena and will be available to stream on ESPN+.