The outcome was inevitable, and both Ike Cornish and his older brother, Josh, saw it coming.
Since their grade-school days, the two often played one-on-one basketball, and Josh would not lose to his little brother. It just never happened.
With the two back home in Cockeysville because of the coronavirus pandemic — Ike returning from his junior year at Legacy Early College in South Carolina and Josh back from his sophomore year at Bowie State — they are training hard together and always closing sessions with those one-on-one challenges.
And these days, the 6-foot-2 Josh is looking up to the 6-6 Ike.
“Yeah, he beat me for the first time a couple months ago. It was a close game, 5-4,” said Josh, 20, a point guard who transferred to Bowie State from Southern Utah. “The games are real close and I’ll win a couple and he’ll win a couple. That’s how it is now.”
For Ike, a 16-year-old small forward, the family breakthrough is just one of many in a sensational year.
After spending his first two high school years at Dulaney, he got the opportunity to attend Legacy and flourished playing a national schedule. The sharpshooter averaged 15 points a game and is drawing interest from major colleges, including Maryland. He’s rated a four-star prospect and the No. 73 overall player in the Class of 2021 by the 247 Sports Composite rankings.
Last week on his Twitter account, he narrowed his list to six with Georgetown, Rutgers, St. John’s, Virginia Tech and Xavier joining Maryland. He’s hoping to make his college decision Aug. 21, when he turns 17.
“I’ve enjoyed [the recruiting process] because it’s a blessing and not everyone gets the opportunity,” Cornish said.
“But I know I got to take it one step at a time, you don’t want to rush anything. I set a date — Aug. 21 — and I feel like I’ll definitely be ready. But if I’m not ready, then I feel I can still push it back. It’s just such a big decision that I feel if I need to push it back, I will. I’m just taking my time with everything.”
Cornish has grown in the past year.
After helping Dulaney reach the state tournament in his sophomore year, he jumped at the chance to move on to Legacy, where he stood out playing in front of college coaches at top-notch showcases.
Legacy coach BJ Jackson says that Cornish has pro potential if he sets his mind to it. Jackson has been impressed with how dedicated Cornish is in the classroom, basketball court and weight room. A common request from Cornish has been asking to get in the gym to get up extra shots.
“Ike is a very good shooter, one of those guys that once he hits his first couple shots, the rim just opens up like an ocean,” Jackson said. “But I think what he has really improved at is getting to the rim and finishing around the rim. He has a great pull-up game, has gotten better with the ball-screen action and I think with him, the more he gets comfortable handling the ball, the better he’ll be at this level.”
Sending her youngest of three sons to South Carolina wasn’t easy for his mother, Patrice Brown. But her mother’s intuition proved right. Cornish completed his junior year last week online at home and plans to return to Legacy for his senior year.
“Here’s a mom that’s spoiling him. I wash his clothes, cook dinner and make sure everything is straight in his life, so I’m like ‘He’s 16 getting ready to leave?’” she said.
“People were telling me not to worry, he’ll be fine because now he’s going to be made to grow up, and I was like, ‘But I don’t know.’ When we went to visit Legacy I was actually trying to find holes, thinking there has to be something down here that is going to make me not allow him to come, and I could not find one.”
On his own, Cornish stayed on course in the classroom, added size and strength and sharpened his basketball skills, and when the time came to wash and iron his clothes, mom gladly came to the rescue.
“We would FaceTime and he would put the phone by the iron or by the washing machine and he would say ‘OK, which buttons do I push?’” Brown said. “I walked him through it once or twice and after that he figured it out on his own.”
Varsity Highlights Newsletter
Get the latest high school sports stories, photos and video from around the region.
Cornish figured out plenty more leaving home for the first time.
“I thought it would be similar to college and it was a big adjustment,” he said. “The transition was great and everything was beneficial. It has gotten me better in every area, more mature on and off the court. I knew I got older and it made me act like I got older. I’ve become a more mature person.”
Now, Ike and Josh are making the most of their time together in Cockeysville, older brother teaching his kid brother all the things he’s learned at college.
Every other day, they have access to a gym where they work on Ike’s shooting, ball handling and more to improve his game. Other days, they work on his conditioning, explosiveness and core strength.
“I’m training Ike, just trying to bring the college game to him, so he can be ahead of his class,” Josh said.
“Since I started playing basketball, I never wanted anybody being better than me. But I always told my mom, he’s the one person I would want to see be better than me. So that’s my goal – for him to pass me and he can teach me stuff.”