SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Isaiah Stewart’s decision was not exactly a surprise, but it was certainly different. The five-star big man committed to Washington on Sunday at the HoopHall Classic, becoming the highest-profile recruit in Mike Hopkins’s two years at the helm. Stewart is a consensus Top-10 prospect in the country, and the sense among recruiting experts had been that the Huskies moved into pole position. That came true as Stewart made his pledge at halftime of a high-profile, televised battle between Oak Hill Academy and IMG Academy on Sunday night.
Stewart’s commitment brought full-circle a recruitment that began when Hopkins was the top assistant at Syracuse and Stewart was a promising freshman at McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester, N.Y. Fast forward, and Stewart has evolved into a blue-chip recruit at Indiana high school powerhouse La Lumiere, while Hopkins has kick-started a rebirth of sorts in Seattle. Stewart picked Washington over Duke and Michigan State, with Kentucky and Syracuse also in his final five, but thought to have been trailing.
Listed at 6’9” and 245 pounds, Stewart is a bit of a throwback big, able to get up and down the floor and uses his strength and quickness to create mismatches on the interior. He is unafraid of contact, which coupled with a consistently competitive approach has helped him dominate at the high school level, His reported 7’4” wingspan and physical heft has made him one of the best rebounders in the country, particularly on the offensive glass, and over the past year, Stewart earned elite status from recruiting services. His size and power, plus a developing jumper (and the fact he does not turn 18 until May) will make him an intriguing prospect in the eyes of the NBA, and a high-impact player for Washington, for as long as he chooses to stay.
Stewart’s decision puts the Huskies in position to angle toward the top of the Pac-12 in the fall, even with Arizona (Josh Green and Nico Mannion) and USC (Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu) set to reload. Point guard Quade Green transferred in from Kentucky and is expected to be eligible mid-season. Provided leading scorer Jaylen Nowell, who has a case to at least test the draft waters, returns to school and Washington’s underclassmen continue to improve, there is a chance for the Huskies to gather steam, with Stewart sliding immediately into Noah Dickerson’s spot and helping to anchor Hopkins’s 2-3 zone. Having Stewart to chase rebounds and clean up mistakes on both ends of the floor should add a valuable dimension.
Washington continues to recruit another elite prospect in Jaden McDaniels, a Seattle native who will likely be among the first players selected in the 2020 draft, and who could completely elevate the program’s profile with a commitment. Stewart said he would help recruit McDaniels just after announcing his own commitment to the Huskies. McDaniels does not plan to commit until after the season and also has Kentucky hot on his trail, in addition to San Diego State, where his brother, Jalen, is a sophomore. Stewart and McDaniels are both scheduled to play on Monday at the HoopHall.