When you meet him face-to-face, Isaac Haas’ presence is overwhelming.
Program alert: “The Journey” profiles Purdue big man Isaac Haas and the inspiration he draws from his sister. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
If you’re a Big Ten hoops fan, you’ve probably seen the Purdue center play on TV by now. But the small-screen portrayal of the 7-foot-2, 290 pound junior doesn’t do him justice. Sure, he already stands out among his over-sized peers on a basketball court. But his presence in a room is beyond massive. His handshake will envelop half your forearm, while his limbs make yours look comically small in comparison.
Chat with Isaac in person, and you’ll quickly discover his personality doesn’t match his intimidating frame. He’s the physical embodiment of a gentle giant, selecting his words carefully in interviews before delivering them with a hint of a southern drawl. Most of all, he projects a kindness that has been well-documented as it has carried over to parts of his personal and family life.
That same kindness shines through when it comes to Isaac’s relationship with his sister, Erin. Erin has intractable epilepsy–a rare, severe form of the disease that is very difficult to treat–and she has suffered countless seizures and undergone numerous surgeries in her 16-plus years of life. She loves watching Purdue play and interacting with Isaac’s teammates, and Isaac has had her back since birth.
Isaac averages 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Boilermakers — numbers that make NBA scouts drool when attached to a player his size. But while an NBA career would mean further fame and riches, the exponential increase in attention and finances would also serve as an avenue for Isaac to improve his sister’s circumstances. Isaac made it clear in a Nov. 2016 ESPN article that much of his motivation is drawn from the hardship that has impacted the Haas family since Erin was born, saying his “sole purpose” is to help his sister have a better life.
Though Erin will likely always struggle with seizures, NBA money could instantly improve her comfort level. Not to mention the epilepsy awareness Isaac has spread while at Purdue would have a much wider audience under the NBA’s spotlight.
“Awareness is huge, because there’s still a stigma to it,” said Isaac and Erin’s mother, Rachel Haas. “People just kind of shy away from it.”
Isaac has come a long way from his roots in rural Alabama, impacting Purdue’s program with his play on the court while changing lives for the better off of it. The big man is making a big difference, and it looks like he’s just getting started.