Isaiah Stewart was the #3 college basketball recruit in 2019, coming out of Rochester, New York. The 6’9”, 250-pound center announced his commitment to play at the University of Washington in January of 2019. Stewart chose the Huskies over Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse and Kentucky. While he personally shined on the Washington hardwood, his squad finished dead last in the Pac-12 this past season, going 5-13 in conference games. Stewart was not one to blame; he led the Huskies in games played, minutes per game, points per game, rebounds per game, and field goal percentage among qualifiers. His stats had the look of a 2018 LeBron finals box score. Stewart finished in the top-5 among NCAA freshmen in rebounds per game and finished 6th among freshmen in points per game. With that, the former McDonald’s All-American game participant decided he is ready for the next challenge and has declared for the NBA draft.
As per recent NCAA rule changes, college basketball players may hire an agent in anticipation of the NBA draft and still be eligible to return to school if undrafted. This rule likely won’t be utilized by Stewart, who carries a unanimous first-round projection across draft boards. Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated released a mock draft with Stewart going 16th to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He reasons, “Stewart is certainly a throwback big, but his willingness to do the dirty work and understanding of who he is as a player has helped stabilize his stock. Washington wasn’t all that good, but Stewart was highly productive, and his broad frame, physicality and high-energy approach have endeared him to scouts, even if below-the-rim, bruising centers aren’t really where the NBA is headed. Scouts think he’ll be able to shoot from the perimeter and laud his work ethic.” Stewart shot a pedestrian 25% from beyond the arc in his first and likely last collegiate campaign. While he is undoubtedly a force down low, his style of play is more sought out by teams like the 1980’s Detroit Pistons as opposed to the 3-happy contemporary Golden State Warriors. Roc Nation Sports will look to market Stewart to teams and raise his draft stock against the narrative of limited shooting ability.
To do so, Roc Nation need not look further than their own client, P.J. Washington. P.J. was drafted 12th in the 2019 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets after two years at Kentucky. His 2017-18 freshman year at Kentucky was impressive, but he knew he could improve and decided to return for his sophomore year. It was an excellent decision. He improved across the board, but what Roc Nation could point to when speaking to NBA teams about Stewart, is Washington’s increase in 3-point field goal percentage. Washington shot 24% from three his freshman year and then jumped all the way up to 42% his sophomore year. While Stewart is not returning to school, there is evidently room to grow at the ripe age of 18. Roc Nation Sports is no stranger to first-round prospects, having also represented Kevin Porter Jr., the 30th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The NBA draft is currently scheduled for June 25th of 2020. Hopefully those plans will be able to stay intact, amid Coronavirus concerns. The NFL has announced its April draft date will be upheld but the draft will not be conducted in person. “It feels weird to be declaring for the draft with all this going on,” Stewart told ESPN. “I understand that there are bigger issues going on in the world, but I also want to let people know what my plans are. I’m just trying to make this as much of an opportunity as possible and try to gain whatever edge I can.” “It’s important to practice social distancing,” he said. “People are losing lives, and I am going to do anything I can to help the families that are going through this.”
“I take a lot of pride in winning national player of the year in high school. The list of guys that won that award is impressive,” Stewart said. “I feel like I am someone who can play in an NBA game tomorrow physically. With all the uncertainty about whether there will be a summer league or what type of offseason the NBA might have, it’s more important than ever to have a long body of work teams can look at. People already know my reputation and what my character is as a person. I’ll continue to show NBA teams that over video conferences, Skype, FaceTime or whatever it might be.” Roc Nation Sports has a uniquely digital job ahead in promoting and protecting the interests of new client Isaiah Stewart.