Isaiah Stewart is one of Kentucky’s primary remaining targets for the 2019 recruiting class. He is listed as the No. 5 recruit by 247 Sports composite rankings, and he is right behind James Wiseman and Vernon Carey when ranking the big men.
An interesting development in Stewart’s recruitment surfaced on Saturday, as Stewart revealed to Jason Jordan of USA Today that a coach from one of his top seven programs has offered him the ability to select his teammates.
“I had a coach tell me that I could pick the players they recruit to come and play with me,” Stewart told Jordan. “I’ve heard a lot of coaches say a lot of things, but that was different.”
Stewart’s top seven schools are the Duke Blue Devils, Syracuse Orange, Kentucky Wildcats, Villanova Wildcats, Washington Huskies, Indiana Hoosiers, and Michigan State Spartans.
Would one of those programs really be desperate enough to make such a promise?
“I was honored that an elite school would have that level of trust in me,” Stewart said. “I won’t say it made me want to go there more, but it’s something I’ll remember.”
Duke has a slight lead in the 247 Crystal Ball for Stewart with 38%, but there certainly seems to be no “team to beat” at this point for the star center. With such a wide open recruitment, it is understandable that a coach would try to set his program apart in some way.
But would they really offer that kind of control?
A major piece of recruiting is to listen to a recruit and his family and find out what they are looking for. Then you adjust your strategy to try to say what they want to hear. That normally applies to playing time vs. development, winning vs. individual production, and college team success vs. NBA prep.
Never before have I seen a recruit’s basketball retirement plan become a factor.
“I could see myself working in some sort of front office or something like that,” Stewart told Jordan.
Assuming he has said similar things to coaches, could one of them have latched onto that to craft his pitch? Or is someone simply offering Stewart the world out of desperation to get a commitment?
If that is the case, which programs could have likely made that promise? It is definitely not Kentucky or Duke. It would be shocking if Jim Boeheim or Jay Wright was involved. Archie Miller seems to be doing fine without such promises, and is Indiana even considered an elite school anymore?
Could Tom Izzo be that desperate given the cloud hanging over his program and institution? Michigan State did get a pair of crystal ball predictions on Monday, including one from Kentucky reporter Chris Fisher, which is interesting timing to say the least.
Or would Washington’s Mike Hopkins offer up recruiting control to try and compete with the elite programs he is up against? Stewart visited Washington just over a week ago, but they’re not an elite program. They’ve been to one Final Four in program history.
Deductive reasoning suggests Michigan State is the school in question, though this is obviously speculation at this point. It is also worth noting that Michigan State is one of the top contenders for Vernon Carey, who has said he would like to play with Stewart in college.
No matter who made this offer, it certainly seems not only extreme but also disingenuous. Stewart’s top choices to join him would likely be top recruits, and chances are that each of these schools are chasing those guys anyway. His commitment would likely change nothing about the recruiting strategy.
Only time will tell if Stewart’s recruitment will be impacted by this promise. Or perhaps we will never find out who said this to him. But if it does become public, you can bet that this will be ammunition for every program recruiting against that school in the future.
In the meantime, check out these highlights of Isaiah Stewart. We have no footage of him serving as a general manager, so the best I can do is basketball highlights.
Go follow our Twitter page to get all of the latest Kentucky Wildcats news and views. And check out our new Kentucky Football shirt.