Mention Springdale and most folks in Arkansas will think Tyson, JB Hunt, or about the ‘Springdale Five’ on the 2005 state championship football team.
They might even think of the Naturals, the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals who play at Arvest Ballpark on the west side of town.
In future years, a basketball phenom by the name of Isaiah Sealy may join their ranks. Not since Mitch Mustain in the Class of 2006 has a player been ranked this high nationally (No. 28 on ESPN) and represented the town of Springdale.
Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been impressive basketball players to come through the town.
Just in the last decade, Springdale High has made two state championship game appearances. Its crosstown rival, Springdale Har-Ber, also went to one in 2007 while led by Michael Sanchez, who went on to play for the Razorbacks for four years under both John Pelphrey and Mike Anderson.
Before that, Jeremy Price was an all-state player at Springdale High and helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1998 Class 5A state finals before they lost to Little Rock Parkview.
Now entering his ninth season as the head coach of his alma mater, Price has a rising junior in Sealy that is already grabbing the attention of major college coaches.
Breakout Season for Isaiah Sealy
As a sophomore this past season, Sealy (6-7, 180) burst onto the scene, helping lead the Bulldogs all the way to the 6A state championship game before falling to Jonesboro.
He averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists just in 6A West games. The 6A tournament is where he really shone, however. He had 20 points against Conway in the opener to go with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Then he scored 21 against Little Rock Central in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals against Bentonville West, he tallied 16 points and 4 rebounds, while hitting all three of his 3-pointers. Against Jonesboro in the championship game, he had 10 points, but struggled from the field against the Hurricane defense, going just 4 of 14. He also grabbed 5 rebounds.
“It’s a blessing to be offered by Arkansas,” Sealy said in an interview with Best of Arkansas Sports. “I am just going to keep working on my game and I am just going to go wherever I feel like is the best fit for my game.”
Other schools besides Arkansas are in the mix for Sealy’s services, as well. He told BoAS that Texas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Oral Roberts contact him a lot.
Isaiah Sealy Scouting Report
In 2021-22, Isaiah Sealy played for the Bulldogs as a freshman. Sure, he was an integral part of the team, but he wasn’t ‘the guy’ yet.
That came this past season.
“He made a big jump,” Jeremy Price said. “His body is changing, so he was able to play with more physicality when he grew a couple of inches and blocked more shots and got more rebounds.
“Doing things without the basketball is where we want him to grow. Moving without the ball, changing the game on the defensive end. Making everyone around him better. That’s what separates people at the next level and we want him to be equipped and prepared to play very high level college basketball and I think he’s moving in that direction.”
Sealy’s father, Oscar, is an assistant for Price and has been coaching his son since childhood. It wasn’t until his son started sprouting up that it became clear he could excel after high school.
“He’s always had talent,” Oscar Sealy said. “But the thought of him playing at the next level came with size. The last couple of years he’s starting to grow and look like a man. The sky’s the limit for Isaiah.”
When asked if Isaiah was one of the best players Price had ever coached, he didn’t hesitate.
“He’s certainly the most talented,” Price said. “And he’s just scratching the surface of what he can become. Usually that kind of question comes after someone has played 3-4 years. If he continues to grow, and we know he’s going to gain muscle and weight, he could definitely end up being one of, if not the best, to ever play here.”
Oscar, who originally grew up in Panama and came to Northwest Arkansas playing basketball at both Ecclesia College and John Brown University before settling down and starting a family, jokingly said that coaching offspring has led to a lot of headaches for him.
“It’s fun, it’s a blessing to be able to coach your son,” Oscar Sealy said. “I don’t want to keep coaching him after high school. I want to enjoy being a parent and be on this journey with him.”
Sealy said he models his game after Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum, who is trying to lead Boston back from an 0-3 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs.
“I love watching Jayson Tatum,” Sealy said. “I also watch LaMelo Ball a lot, but if I had to emulate a player it would be Jayson.”
In sixth grade, Isaiah Sealy’s basketball dreams – and life – were almost taken away from him.
A serious car accident in Oklahoma left Isaiah, his dad and his cousin all hospitalized. Isaiah’s cousin was in a coma for three weeks.
“We were headed to Dallas to see family for Thanksgiving when Isaiah was in sixth grade,” Oscar Sealy said. “We hit a semi, flipped over a bunch of times. My nephew Khaleel was in a coma for about three weeks. We saw a miracle there. It’s just a reminder that he was meant to be here and everything you do is for a reason and God’s grace got you here.”
Sealy was really banged up with some severe bruising, but recovered and was able to resume basketball activities shortly thereafter.
“It was scary, but I’m just glad that God was watching out for me,” Sealy said.
Car accidents have derailed the careers, or even ended the lives, of many former basketball stars. Malik Sealy, no relation to Isaiah, tragically died in 2000 on the road in Minnesota. Bobby Hurley’s accident in 1993 comes to mind, as he was never the same player in the NBA after that. Even Jay Williams’ motorcycle accident in 2003 put to bed his career with the Chicago Bulls.
Sealy’s perseverance and willingness to excel regardless of circumstances is impressive. Just a few days after the accident, he was discharged from the hospital and getting back on the court was his first priority. That gym rat mentality is what sets apart elite players from just good ones.
Price, the son of a legendary junior high coach and former Arkansas basketball player in the mid 1970s, added that as he and his team embark on the 2023-24 season, the next step for Sealy is becoming the alpha leader that the team needs.
“We kind of joke of him being a team captain, but we want him to become a verbal leader and lead by example,” Price said. “He’s not going to be flying under the radar anymore. He’s going to get everyone’s best defender, every student in the student section is going to be going against him. He’s got a huge target on his back.
“That’s a really good thing, he’ll be going to have to navigate that. He’ll have to make his teammates better basketball players as well, and he’s very capable of doing that. That’s what a lot of college coaches in America want to see. You can shoot, you can drive, you can dish, you can dunk, but where are those leadership qualities? He learns those, he’s going to get to play a lot of basketball in his future.”
Check out some highlights from Isaiah Sealy’s sophomore season at Springdale High:
Check out where Isaiah Sealy ranks on the list of most valuable Arkansas high school athletes in terms of potential NIL:
More coverage of Arkansas basketball and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…