PLU’s Isaksen exudes energy, leadership

Staff writerFebruary 11, 2014 

You know the smooth ballhandler who can aptly dribble with either hand and toss the basketball around the horn like a Harlem Globetrotter?

That is not the style of Pacific Lutheran University’s Arvid Isaksen.

Or the guy who can bull his way into the lane and has enough athleticism to jump-stop and bend his body around a defender to knock down a difficult 10-foot bank shot?

Not Isaksen, either.

Or the long-distance shooter who can take three steps inside midcourt, almost close his eyes and swish a 45-foot jump shot?

No way, Isaksen.

But when Lutes coach Steve Dickerson watches Isaksen play, he sees the 6-foot-2 senior forward’s true value to a program.

He lists Isaksen as one of his all-time great leaders — and underrated contributors.

“He never has a bad day. He never has a negative thought,” Dickerson said. “Every time he walks in my office, I ask, ‘How is

your self-esteem, Arvid?’ And he puts his hand a foot over his head. He kind of picks everyone’s spirits up.”

Isaksen hails from Lake Stevens High School, the same school that produced the late Marv Harshman, who earned 14 letters (football, basketball, baseball, track and field) at PLU and later became the school’s football and men’s basketball coach before moving on to coach basketball at Washington State and Washington.

“Growing up, my dad forced me to lead,” Isaksen said. “I was the youngest in my family, and I got picked on by my older brother (Anders), so my dad told me to keep fighting through it.

“I was a leader when I was younger at high school camps. I always tried to stay positive. I want a group to have fun — not just myself. I like taking charge … but with some leaders, when things are not going their way, it is going nobody’s way. When I am around, everyone is a leader. Nobody needs to control anyone.”

A two-sport standout, Isaksen broke his foot during football season as a high school senior and missed 14 weeks. It took a little out of his appeal to recruiters.

Mark Hein, the Lake Stevens boys basketball coach and PLU alumnus, recommended Isaksen take a hard look at the NCAA Division III school in Parkland.

For his first few seasons with the Lutes, Isaksen was the do-everything, play-everywhere sixth man. He was the heady defender. He was the cagey rebounder. Most of his points came on putback baskets or hustle plays.

That is the role Isaksen seems born for. But after leading scorers Cameron Schilling and Andrew Earnest graduated last spring, the Lutes needed leadership and production and Isaksen moved into a more prominent position.

“Arvid is not a great athlete … and his ideal situation would be as the sixth or seventh man because of the energy he generates,” Dickerson said. “But he has earned the right to try and finish games for us.”

Isaksen’s numbers are more than respectable — 10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in a team-high 30.3 minutes per game. And he has the biggest voice on the squad.

In fact, during a school mini-break, Isaksen organized an overnight team-bonding trip to Sequim last week. It wasn’t to discuss the rest of the season. It wasn’t even to talk about basketball. It was about just getting away from everything.

“Other friends and girlfriends wanted to come, and I said, ‘No, just the team,’” Isaksen said. “We just hung out and played a bunch of poker games. Bryce (Miller) and Johnny (Tveter) were on the grill all night. And we went down to the beach in the morning and walked around.”

In the future, PLU might find better scorers, passers and rebounders. But a leader of Isaken’s quality is a rare find.

“The guts, the engine — the glue,” Dickerson said.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com

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