Stewart Goes to Detroit with 16th Pick, a High-Motor Guy for the Motor City

The University of Washington big man has found a new basketball home with the Pistons.
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Isaiah Stewart, the most decorated recruit in the history of the University of Washington basketball program, has found a new basketball home in the Motor City, apropos for a guy who plays with a nonstop motor.

On Wednesday night, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward went to the Detroit Pistons with the 16th pick of the NBA draft, going well before Husky teammate Jaden McDaniels, which wasn't always a clear proposition.

He'll play for an NBA team that previously had a couple of prominent UW players on its roster in Bob Houbregs (1958), the 1953 Helms College Player of the Year and an eventual Seattle Sonics general manager, and James Edwards (1988-91), who shared in a pair of NBA titles for a group of Pistons called "the Bad Boys."

Edwards, who lives in Detroit, expressed an interest this past February in having the young UW big man join his favorite pro basketball team. His desire was met.

"He'll be playing in the NBA soon," Edwards said of Stewart at the time. "He's a got a nice body. Moves real well. Jumps real well. I wish we could get him here. We need some help. I'll take him under my wing."

Technically, Stewart was drafted by Portland, but the pick was sent to Detroit in a trade that needs to be approved by the league.

Stewart disappointed no one while at the UW, leading the Huskies in scoring and rebounding at 17 and 8.8 per game while shooting 57 percent. He was named to the All-Pac-12 first and freshman teams.

Yet his experience in Seattle might have cost him some draft standing because his high-level skills completely went to waste. Stewart often was double- and triple-teamed once point guard Quade Green was lost to academic shortcomings, and the Huskies bottomed out, going from a 10-2 start to finish 15-17 and last in the conference.  

Stewart even felt people might have lost sight of him and what he could do when the Husky losses piled up.

"It was a down season at UW, so people sort of forgot who Isaiah Stewart was, what I've been doing against the top players and how I've always killed the competition, killed match-ups, and dominated every other player at my position," Stewart recently told the New York Times. "So that's why I feel like I'm a sleeper. I just have to remind them. I have to wake them back up."

Stewart closed out his Husky career against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas with a decided flourish, scoring a career-high 29 points on 9-for-11 shooting. He also connected on 10 of 11 free throws and grabbed 12 rebounds.

He came to the Huskies from Rochester, New York, after he was named 2019 Naismith High School National Player of the Year. Throughout his senior season at La Lumiere High at La Porte, Indiana, he continuously ranked among the country's top three schoolboy players. 

Scouts praised Stewart for his hard-nosed approach to the game, noting how he was more than willing to rebound, play defense and score however he could. Picking apart his game, the bird dogs questioned his medium size for a big man and his perimeter shooting.

Stewart was the second Pac-12 player drafted in the opening round, following USC center Onyeka Okongwu, who went with the sixth pick to the Atlanta Hawks.

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