In the latest installment of his great player interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with the all-time leading scorer in Washington State history in Isaac Fontaine. Fontaine, who earned All-Conference honors in each of his four seasons on the Palouse, also leads the program in three-point percentage (45.7%) and was a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award as a senior in 1997.
Jon Teitel: Why did you choose to go to Washington State?
Isaac Fontaine: I chose Washington State for two reasons. I wanted to play in the Pac-10, and I felt like a part of the team when I visited the campus on my official visit. The players and coaches made the difference for me.
JT: You were a four-time All-Pac-10 performer. How were you able to remain consistent throughout your college career?
IF: I was able to remain consistent by not being satisfied with what I did the previous year. I had to improve my skills every year because players get better every year, and if you do not improve then you will be left behind. I also took pride in being consistent; one of my biggest pet peeves is a player that is good one year and then you do not hear about them after that because they had a lucky year or they played well because no one knew about them. You know a player is good when he can produce even when the other team knows he is there and tries to stop him. You must be very versatile and have many ways to produce and help your team win.
JT: What are your memories of the 1994 NCAA Tournament (Fontaine scored a team-high 17 points in a three-point loss to Boston College)?
IF: It was one of my favorite college basketball experiences. That was the first and last year that we made it to the tourney, and I will always cherish that feeling. I knew it was a big-time game when we were escorted to the gym by the police and they completely stopped traffic on a major highway in order for us to get there on time. I had always wanted to be a part of March Madness, and when it finally happened during my freshman year, it was amazing. We should have won that game, but I will always remember that time in my basketball career. I was interviewed by Michelle Tafoya!! She was a sports reporter at the time who I always saw on TV, so it was a big deal; small but big all at the same time!
JT: In 1995 you scored a career-high 38 points in a 114-111 loss to Arizona. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?
IF: Yes it was, but Arizona was also my favorite team to play against in the Pac-10. I had one of the highest scoring averages against the Wildcats at the time. I just enjoyed playing against them and looked forward to those conference games the most.
JT: What are your memories of the 1995 NIT (Fontaine scored an NIT-school-record 32 points on 11-14 FG in a win over Texas Tech, 23 points and the game-clinching basket with 30 seconds left in a three-point win over Illinois State and 20 points and had eight rebounds before fouling out in a nine-point loss at Canisius)?
IF: We had a really good team that year but the Pac-10 was a really strong conference at the time so we did not make the NCAA tourney. I was in a good rhythm at the time and we were playing a lot of good teams; I always got up for highly competitive teams. I was also bitter that we were not in the NCAA Tournament so I had to take my frustrations out on someone!!!
JT: What are your memories of the 1996 NIT (Fontaine scored 21 points in a win over Gonzaga and 21 points in a nine-point loss to Nebraska)?
IF: I don't remember this NIT as well because we lost so early, but I just remembered that we could not let Gonzaga beat us because they were an in-state rival. I had to punish them like I always did when we played Gonzaga. They have been very successful since I left college, but I really wished they were at least decent when we played them.
JT: You are still the leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were?
IF: This is going to sound a little arrogant but I knew that I was going to break the scoring record back when I was a freshman. I told Eddie Hill, who was a senior shooting guard at the time, that I was going to break the record and it would not be a problem to score 500 points/year. He just laughed at me, but I knew that I would break it. Honest story; if you can find Eddie, he will verify that I told him that!! I was inducted into the Pac-10 Hall of Fame in 2009, which was a great honor.
JT: In 2002 you played for Mobile in the inaugural year of the D-League and led the league with 17.4 PPG. How did the D-League compare to college basketball, and did you feel like you were one of the best players in the league?
IF: The D-League was a really competitive league, and it had the best players outside the NBA. It was a lot more difficult than college basketball because the players were stronger, faster, and smarter. I felt that I was one of the best players in the league because I was the league's leading scorer while shooting almost 50% from the field. I scored more points with fewer shots than anyone else at my position. I did not take a lot of shots, but I made sure that when I did shoot that I made them or got fouled in the process. Nothing is worse than a high-scoring shooting guard who does not shoot a high field goal percentage.
JT: In March of 2002 you played six games for Memphis after signing a 10-day contract. What did it mean to you to finally make it to the NBA, and what is your favorite memory from those 10 magical days?
IF: Making it to the NBA was a dream come true and showed me that all my hard work had paid off. Of course I would have liked to have played in the NBA longer and I know that I had the skill and ability to do so, but it was not in the cards for me. I played hard while I was there and enjoyed every minute of it!!! It was exciting and everything that I had dreamed of and more; I would not change that experience for anything. I recently saw a story about NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans; it talked about how he was one of five players to ever average 20 points/5 rebounds/5 assists during his rookie year, and that is very impressive. However, I also saw that only 3,602 people have ever played in the NBA in the history of the world, and I felt honored to be one of those players, even if it was for a short time. I will make sure my son (Isaac Henry Sedric Fontaine V) knows about this statistic, and if he wants to be in the NBA then he needs to work hard to be in this elite group like his father. If he does not want to be a basketball player, then I will settle for a doctor!!!
JT: You currently work as a Senior Tax Associate for the Reznick Group in Sacramento: how do you like the job, and what do you hope to do in the future?
IF: I truly enjoy my job because it was something that I was going to do if I did not make it playing pro basketball. I am currently studying for the CPA exam and will pass it in the near-future, but I had decided to become a CPA back when I was a high school sophomore. I took an Accounting class and truly enjoyed it, and from that point on I wanted to work with numbers. I have been working with numbers in both of my careers, and I will not stop until I cannot add anymore. I have been really fortunate to have two professions that have made me happy. When I played basketball I looked forward to adding up all the points I scored against my opponents, so now I look forward to adding up tax savings for my clients.
Isaac is on Jon's list of best fantasy players in Pac-10 history
Arizona: Sean Elliott (1989) 2,555 PTS (#1), 42.8 3PT% (#3), two-time All-American, two-time conference Player of the Year, national Player of the Year
Arizona State: Eddie House (2000) 2,044 PTS (#1), 258 STL (#1), 250 3PTM (#3), All-American, conference Player of the Year
California: Jerome Randle (2010) 1,849 PTS (#1), 526 AST (#2), 255 3PTM (#1), 88.2 FT% (#1), All-American, conference Player of the Year
Oregon: Ron Lee (1976) 2,085 PTS (#1), 572 AST (#2), three-time All-American, conference Player of the Year, NIT MVP
Oregon State: Gary Payton (1990) 2,172 PTS (#1), 938 AST (#1), 321 STL (#1), 178 3PTM (#2), All-American
Stanford: Adam Keefe (1992) 2,319 PTS (#2), 1,119 REB (#1), 141 STL (#4), 59.4 FG% (#2), three-time All-American, NIT MVP
UCLA: Lew Alcindor (1969) 2,325 PTS (#2), 1,367 REB (#2), 63.9 FG% (#3), three-time All-American, three-time national Player of the Year, three-time NCAA Most Outstanding Player
USC: Harold Miner (1992) 2,048 PTS (#1), 176 3PTM (#1), 81.4 FT% (#1), two-time All-American, conference Player of the Year
Washington: Christian Welp (1987) 2,073 PTS (#1), 995 REB (#3), 186 BLK (#1), 56.2 FG% (#3), conference Player of the Year
Washington State: Isaac Fontaine (1997) 2,003 PTS (#1), 208 3PM (#5), 45.7 3P% (#1), 161 STL (#5)