Weight: 245 pounds
High School: La Lumiere School
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Recruiting Rankings: 7th (247 Sports, 5th (Rivals) and 4th (ESPN)
When discussing the top players in the class of 2019, the usual names brought to mention are James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr, and Cole Anthony. But 6-9 center Isaiah Stewart may have a bone to pick with those who are doubting his right to be in the conversation as a top player in his class.
247 Sports ranks Stewart as the #3 center in the country and #7 overall. That ranking really speaks to the frontcourt depth of the class of 2019, being that Stewart is a top-seven player overall yet only ranked as the third-best center behind Wiseman and Carey Jr. Even though I would consider Carey to be more of a power forward than a center, the point remains valid.
Stewart attends high school at one of more prestigious basketball schools in the nation: La Lumiere. Kentucky fans may remember that name, because it is the same school that produced former fan-favorite Isaac Humphries.
The high-level competition and exposure that La Lumiere provides really gives players like Stewart a chance to challenge themselves with a national schedule while also garnering exposure from the top programs. Not to mention playing at La Lumiere has given Stewart the chance to play alongside some of the best. He is teammates at LA Lumiere with another five-star recruit that John Calipari has been after, Keion Brooks.
It is very likely that Kentucky’s involvement with Brooks allowed an opportunity to get in Stewart’s ear and ultimately score an official visit with him. In August, Stewart, cut his list and Kentucky was not even on it.
So, getting him to reevaluate his recruitment entirely was a victory in itself and may not have happened had he not been teammates with Keion Brooks.
If Kentucky landed a commit from Stewart, it would be one of the more impressive snags for Calipari in his tenure at Kentucky.
Style of play
Stewart has a powerful build at 245 pounds which allows him to excel when finishing through contact. He can step out and make a jump shot but really excels in the paint.
Watching tape of Stewart, it immediately impressed me how patient he is while playing with his back to the basket. He is also a willing defender that will block a shot on one end and run back down the court with maximum effort.
Stewart averaged 17.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer, which earned him first-team honors. The upside is tremendous for Stewart, and his game should translate well to college.
Here is what Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader in a July interview about how he sees Stewart transitioning into college.
“With the energy that he brings and this is a kid with a college ready, chiseled frame - and the way he plays will lead him to be a producer from day one in college. This is a kid that can consistently rim-run for easy baskets. He gives great effort on the glass, and I think if there’s one thing that always translates to levels, it’s rebounding. So, yeah, I think he’s a producer from day one.” said Daniels
In a blog series with USA Today Stewart wrote about how he challenged himself this summer and showed improvement in his game.
“I feel like I was really productive and I grew a lot. I definitely have gotten better with my face-up game and showing everyone that I can knock down the jump shot. Everyone saw that I’m not just a back-to-the-basket guy.” Stewart wrote.
How does Kentucky fit in?
It is incredible that Calipari and the UK coaching staff was able to reinvigorate their recruitment of Stewart after the Cats didn’t even make the cut for his final six schools that was released in August.
For some time it was believed that Duke was the clear frontrunner to land Stewart. Prior to the announcement of his visit to Kentucky, 247 Sports had an overwhelming 91% predictions in for the Blue Devils.
Since the visit to Lexington, Kentucky briefly looked like the favorite, only to see other schools seemingly pass them by. Michigan State and even Washington have been getting buzz recently, and Duke isn’t completely out of the mix either.
There’s been some scuttlebutt that Stewart didn’t have a good visit with Kentucky. Then there’s this from The Athletic’s Andrew Slater:
Was sent this interesting theory on Isaiah Stewart’s recruitment... perhaps, Zay needs to be more competitive— Andrew Slater (@Andrew__Slater) October 13, 2018
Fortunately, he was able to compete in all 5 sessions at USA BB, unlike some other 5⭐️s.@Dreamville_33 begins his 3rd official visit today to #Syracuse pic.twitter.com/yViqx7rwbP
While Stewart may not end up at Kentucky, where he goes could impact the Wildcats in more ways than one. Stewart and Carey have discussed playing in college together, and they’d form one of, if not the best frontcourt in college basketball if they pick the same school.
Kentucky is also strongly in the mix for Carey, so if they can get Stewart, perhaps the twin towers attack will return to Lexington.
As it stands, Kentucky is still in the running for Stewart, but it’s clear Calipari has some work to do in order to reel this elite big man to Lexington.
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