No Surprise At All: Huskies' Isaiah Stewart Declares for NBA Draft

Dan Raley

Freshman sensation Isaiah Stewart was never going to stay more than one season with the University of Washington basketball team.

Coach Mike Hopkins said this matter of fact during the year (see video). Even while Stewart politely pushed back on this subject, it was always a given. 

On Wednesday, the very determined and highly skilled teenager from Rochester, New York, confirmed what everyone knew was coming -- he will enter the NBA draft after just a single year in the college game.

Stewart made the announcement on Twitter with the following message: "Thank you for all the memories #HuskyFamily Can't await to fulfill my dream and officially declare for the 2020 NBA Draft."

In Jeremy Woo's latest mock draft for Sports Illustrated, the analyst has Stewart selected with the 16th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Some liken the UW player to a poor man's Zion Williamson -- exhibiting a similar compact body and relentless effort.

"In Stewart's case, everything adds up to the point where teams feel comfortable with him," Woo said.

The 18-year-old big man didn't enjoy the greatest of UW basketball teams, with the Huskies collapsing following point guard Quade Green becoming ineligible, and slipping from 11-4 to 15-17.

Stewart, however, was at his best all season, leading the team in scoring at 17 points per game and in rebounding at 8.8 each outing, and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and the league's all-freshman team.

He broke freshman records for blocked shots with 66 and for rebounds with 281. He turned in 14 double doubles. And he saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 29 points on 9-for-11 shooting and 10-for-11 foul shooting in his final game against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.

"He's a special kid and I was honored to coach him," Hopkins said.

Stewart came to Washington ranked as the nation's No. 2 high school prospect by Rivals.com and was as good as advertised all along.

His only immediate drawback is his perimeter shooting. He led the team with an overall field-goal percentage of 57 percent and was fairly consistent on the foul line at 77.4 percent, but he made just 5 of 20 three-pointers.

The NBA scouts say the latter is no concern, that he'll improve that area in time, considering the forward's desire to develop his game.

"Scouts think he'll be able to shoot from the perimeter and love his work ethic," Woo said.

Fellow UW freshman forward Jaden McDaniels is expected to follow the same route, and make himself available for early NBA draft entry, but he hasn't done so yet. 

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