The city of Murray, Ky., has always been blessed by a plethora of talented basketball players. In the 90s, it was Popeye Jones and Marcus Brown going in the NBA Draft. More recently, Murray State produced first-round talents such as Suns PG Cameron Payne in 2015 and Grizzlies star Ja Morant in 2019.
Many forget which player started the trend of talented Racer point guards.
Isaiah Canaan, drafted 34th overall in 2013, was an integral part of the 2011-12 Murray State team as a junior, which finished the year 31-2 – the best mark in school history. The team reached No. 9 in the AP Poll at one point.
In the NCAA Tournament, Canaan led all scorers in Murray State’s win over Colorado State in the Round of 64 (third tourney win in school history).
After being selected by the Rockets in the 2013 NBA Draft, Canaan spent his first season-and-a-half with the team, averaging a spectacular 21.4ppg for Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Canaan was traded to the City of Brotherly Love in 2015. He averaged 11.8ppg for the Philadelphia 76ers in his two seasons with the team as the starting point guard alongside Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
Following the 2015-16 season, he signed with the Chicago Bulls for a season but did not find much success. The guard resigned with Houston for the 2017-18 season.
After only playing one game for the contending Rockets, Canaan was shipped off to the desert to play for the Phoenix Suns, where he averaged 9.1 ppg in his 20 games with the team. He found a spot in the starting lineup, but then tragedy struck.
In a late January matchup against Dallas, Canaan went to drive against Mavs forward Wesley Matthews before taking hard contact and landing awkwardly on his ankle. He was carted off the court after his ankle was stuck in an inward-facing position. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Canaan returned just a season later and starting his first 14 games of the season for the Suns before being waived by the team. Suns head coach at the time, Igor Kokoškov, said that it “was a business decision” to waive Canaan.
The guard signed a couple of 10-day contracts with Minnesota later that season. He signed a 10-day with the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2019, but he was released before the end of that contract.
Canaan started the 2019-20 season with the Shandong Golden Stars of the CBA before heading back to the States in Dec. 2019 to play for the Stockton Kings. He averaged 21.4 ppg in his 30 games before the season was cut short due to COVID.
In 2020, Canaan joined UNCIS Kazan, where he average 14.2 ppg in the VTB United League and the EuroCup before being forced to leave Russia following the country’s conflict in Ukraine.
Following a short stint with Galatasaray of the Basketbol Süper Ligi (BSL), Canaan signed with Olympiacos of the Greek Basket League and the EuroLeague in 2022, where he remains today.
At 32 years old, Canaan’s days with Murray State are a relic of the past, but the 6-foot-1-inch, 195-pound guard has found a way to remain a consistent scorer for teams, even through his multiple setbacks.
Murray State fans will always remember him as the man who made a half-court shot from his knees and for being the fifth-highest career scorer in school history. He gave the city of Murray, Ky., four excellent years of electric atmospheres, spectacular shots and exciting wins.
With his No. 3 jersey hanging in the rafters of Murray State’s CFSB Center, he is just one piece of the lengthy Racer pedigree.