When George Washington tips off against Youngstown State on Nov. 10, 603 days will have passed since Isaiah Armwood last played in a Division I game.
For the Baltimore native and Villanova transfer, who redshirted during the 2011-12 season, no time in his life has felt more interminable.
“It was harder than I expected,” Armwood said. “I thought it was going to be kind of easy -- just work out every day on my game, but it was a lot harder. I wasn’t used to sitting out.”
The obvious explanation for Armwood’s impatience to play again is simple: he missed being with his teammates and playing in games that counted for something. But there’s also the matter of Armwood reminding everyone who has followed his career why he was a consensus four-star prospect coming out of Montrose Christian in 2009.
The No. 41-ranked player in the 2009 class according to ESPN.com, Armwood struggled to find his niche as a freshman with the Wildcats. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged just 2.3 points and 2.1 minutes in 11 minutes per game. Sophomore year yielded incremental improvements, with Armwood putting up 2.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game.
While his contributions were modest, the silver lining for Armwood was playing for an NCAA tournament team. And while he expected to play a bigger role for Villanova as a junior, Armwood left Philadelphia last August and headed down I-95 for D.C., where former Vermont coach Mike Lonergan was set to start his first season leading the Colonials’ program.
For Armwood, starting over at GW was a chance he simply could not pass up.
“I think it might be more of a complete opportunity,” Armwood said. “At Villanova, I was more of a role player. We always had great guards there that Coach [Jay] Wright leaned on the most. Here at GW, Coach Lonergan talked about leaning on me the most. That would be a completely different position than I’m used to being in. But that’s what I wanted.”
Early returns on Armwood’s game have been nothing but positive. The expectation around the GW program is for Armwood to not only claim a starting spot, but potentially be one of the Colonials’ leading scorers.
After adding 20-to-25 pounds to his 6-foot-9 frame, the 215-pound Armwood has never been more ready from a physical standpoint to handle more on-court responsibilities.
“I’ve always been a slim dude, but it never affected me on the court,” Armwood said. “I never got pushed around. Weight to my frame [makes me a] better player. It’s helped me out a lot. [It was] something I needed to do.”
Armwood is playing the 3 and the 4 for GW, but the redshirt junior said the team’s positions “vary a lot.” Going from a four-guard offense at Villanova where he didn’t touch the ball much to an offense at George Washington where he could be the centerpiece is something Armwood is excited about.
“Obviously Coach Lonergan does want me to put up numbers, but it’s not just about the numbers,” Armwood said. “The bigger role for me is to lead and everything. Bigger role than Villanova. I really didn’t have too much pressure on me. But now I’m more in the picture.”
Armwood has enjoyed the past year in D.C. He’s studying criminal justice and is able to come back home whenever he wants. But the biggest goals for Armwood are getting back on the floor, living up to potential he showed in high school, and helping George Washington get back to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings.
“Winning as many games as possible,” Armwood said. “Realistically, we want a good team and an A-10 championship.”
The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun