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By THE HUSTLE, 01/21/19, 9:45PM EST


THE PLAYER: Isaiah Stewart, 6’10” Big, LaLumiere/Albany City Rocks

Stewart’s road to elite prospect status has been paved the right way, with long hours in the gym and genuine sweat equity into his craft. He already owns a college-ready 6’10” 250lb frame that comes equipped with a 7’4.5” wingspan but Stewart is also one of the youngest players in the Class of 2019 and won’t turn 18 until late-May. Here’s some perspective when considering Stewart’s long-term development and ultimate ceiling: He is more than 1-year, 8-months younger than fellow top-50 prospects Kofi Cockburn, Precious Achiuwa and Cassius Stanley.

Since 2011, only sixteen 16-year olds have finished in the top-12 in Rebounds at the end of an EYBL season. Twelve of those 16 players have already gone on to play in the NBA, with current young standouts Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Bam Adebayo headlining the group. After finishing in the EYBL’s top-12 in 2017 by averaging 8.2 rebounds per game at age-16, Stewart returned to the league in 2018 with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. The results were impressive.

Surrounded by some dynamic offensive weapons on a strong City Rocks squad, Stewart became one of the Nike circuit's featured prospects and finished the season averaging 18 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists. He then turned his attention to his Team USA responsibilities and played a huge role on a U17 squad that won gold in Argentina. In a little under 18 minutes per game, Stewart averaged 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds as the FIBA tourney’s most dominant post presence. Despite his success, Stewart focused on the fact that he only shot 66.7% (20-30) from the FT line during the event. He returned for Peach Jam and put together a string of uber-efficient performances that saw him go for 19 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.

Over the course of 6 games, Stewart also stepped to the line and drilled 84.6% (22-26) of his FT’s while leading his team to the EYBL's Elite 8. It was all just a microcosm of Stewart’s elite intangibles, his will to succeed and an ever-improving skillset that promises to expand at the same rate as his non-stop work ethic.

THE PROGRAM: Washington (PAC-12)

When Mike Hopkins was named the “Head Coach-in-waiting” at Syracuse in 2015, it was easy to envision a smooth transition from HOFer Jim Boeheim to the man who had become the program’s top recruiter. But when one of the PAC-12’s most appealing jobs opened at Washington, there was no way Hopkins could turn it down. Hopkins didn’t allow the 2,700-mile commute to get in the way of his Upstate NY relationships. While the roster is still loaded with Seattle-area talent, Hopkins has secured the services of Naz Carter and Hameir Wright since arriving at UW to give his program a little East Coast flavor. Now in his 2nd year at the helm, Hopkins has made it clear that his teams will be built with versatility, toughness and skilled shot-makers.

THE FIT: PERFECT! Stewart will be able to contribute immediately as an elite rebounder and unselfish offensive cog who takes pride in making the right play on every possession. Stewart has made a living by flying down court, beating opposing big men to his spot and getting to an unstoppable position near the rim. His unique blend of size, strength and athleticism will allow that ability to translate seamlessly. But here’s the other angle: Take a look at the PAC-12’s best big men. Then imagine unleashing Isaiah Stewart as a low-maintenance, rim-running post presence with an evolving skillset and basketball IQ that will allow him to be a constant threat anywhere from the low block to the top of the arch.

Stewart doesn’t need to dominate the ball on the majority of his team’s possessions in order to be truly dominant. In his five highest scoring outputs of the 2018 EYBL season -which saw him score between 23-27 points in each game- Stewart averaged 24.8 points on 10-14 FG/5-6 FT and 11.2 rebounds. His elite efficiency makes him the ideal big man to play alongside the type of skilled, shot-making wings that Hopkins is hoping to add.