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Isaiah Stewart picks Washington

The elite big man will be heading to the West Coast for college.

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Basketball: USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari and Kentucky have missed on another major 2019 target, as five-star center Isaiah Stewart has committed to the Washington Huskies. His other finalists were the Duke Blue Devils, Michigan State Spartans and Syracuse Orange.

This was the expectation leading up to Stewart’s announcement, as every major recruiting analyst was predicting the Huskies for the New York big man. Even so, it stings for Kentucky to lose a game-changing big man like Stewart to a rebuilding program like Washington.

However, head coach Mike Hopkins has strong ties to Stewart from Hopkins’ days as an assistant at Syracuse, and that relationship proved to be the difference in this recruitment.

Currently the fifth-ranked player in ESPN’s recruiting rankings for 2019, Stewart is a force in the paint at 6’10” and 245 pounds. He’s an old-school big with a great motor and is arguably the most college-ready big man in 2019.

Kentucky appeared to be surging in the recruitment of Stewart during his official visit to Lexington, which came the weekend of the South Carolina football game. Even national recruiting expert Evan Daniels logged a Kentucky prediction for him, but for whatever reason, things went south following the visit, and the Cats have gotten almost no buzz for Stewart since then.

That leaves Kentucky still in search of its first true big man in the 2019 class. Tyrese Maxey, Dontaie Allen and Khalil Whitney have been the only commitments since the summer of 2018.

Kentucky is still hot on the trails for 5-star forwards Jaden McDaniels and Matthew Hurt. 2020 center N’Faly Dante has also been mentioned as a possible reclassification candidate, though there’s been nothing to suggest it’s sure to happen.

At this point, Kentucky’s best hope at having legit bigs next season is having Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery returning for another season, though they are believed to be in good shape for Hurt. McDaniels is more of a combo forward that will spend time on the wing.

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