Recent Duke Basketball Player Comes to Terms With Leaving Too Early

DJ Steward's decision to bolt as a Duke basketball one-and-done probably wasn't his best move, but he's humble enough to admit it.
Duke basketball guard DJ Steward
Duke basketball guard DJ Steward / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After arriving in Durham as a five-star prospect, Chicago native DJ Steward delivered an encouraging freshman campaign, albeit for a 2020-21 Duke basketball squad that finished 13-11 overall, 9-9 in ACC play, and without an NCAA Tournament invite. He averaged 13.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game as a full-time starter for those Blue Devils.

But the 6-foot-2, 165-pound combo guard seemed like a talent needing at least another year or two to develop his next-level skills before trying to make an NBA roster.

Nevertheless, Steward declared for that year's NBA Draft and went undrafted. Three years later, he's still never appeared in an NBA game, although he has spent time with a couple of franchises via a variety of short-term contracts while also producing promising stats in the G League.

Now, DJ Steward, an upbeat competitor who was relatively endearing to the Duke basketball fanbase during his brief stay in Durham despite his lone season coinciding with the year Cameron Crazies weren't in the stands, is displaying admirable humility while reflecting on his time as a Blue Devil.

In a preview of a documentary that he posted on Instagram over the weekend, the 22-year-old concedes that, while he's come to terms with his decision and evidently strengthened his character in the process, his post-one-and-done journey hasn't gone as smoothly as he hoped — admittedly naively — back in the spring of 2021.

Here's what Steward said in the clip:

"I was a person who went to Duke University from Chicago. And being a top recruited player around the country was something that I didn't really take heed of at the time. You know, I didn't know how big that was and how that would play out into my career. I don't want to say that it hurt me, because my work ethic didn't ever stop. It was never my work ethic — maybe really thinking too big of myself and not being humble and not knowing my exact place of where or who I was as a person, a player.

"So, at this point, it's taken me a couple of years to realize that maybe I did make a tough decision in leaving school early. I accepted that. I accepted that. That was the first thing I had to do was accept it, you know, just keep moving forward with my life."

Stay tuned to Blue Devil Country on SI for more updates on former Duke basketball players and daily news about the Blue Devils.

Matt Giles


Matt Giles is the editor and publisher of FanNation's Blue Devil Country and All Tar Heels, covering the Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels on