Notre Dame Basketball

Hoops Recruiting: Isaiah Stewart Not Your Typical Five-Star

April 16, 2018
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College often seems like more of a waiting room than a true experience for most five-star basketball prospects these days, but Isaiah Stewart isn’t your typical five-star prospect.

“When college coaches talk to him, a lot of coaches are recruiting him with a one-and-done pitch,” explains Jim Hart, director of Stewart’s City Rocks AAU program. “You can see it in some of the interviews, ‘Coach showed me how I’ll get to The League by coming there.’

“Isaiah doesn’t want to be recruited as a one-and-done. He says, ‘I never even think of one-and-done. I want to go to college and get better. Whether it’s four years or three years or whatever, I’m just there to get better.’”

Hart adds, “Said no Top 20 player ever.”

While some of his peers pattern their games after LeBron James or Kevin Durant, the 6-foot-8, 227-pound Stewart’s favorite player isn’t even a starter for the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The other day, he said, ‘I like watching Montrezl Hazell,’” Hart explains. “Montrezl Harrell is just throwing people out of his way and dunking on them, which is kind of what Isaiah did this weekend in practice.

“I felt sorry for our other guys because he was tossing them on the floor and dunking on them.”

But the power forward has been working hard to expand his game.

“He’s gone from a player like, ‘Wow, look how strong he is. He’s a bruiser.’ Now it’s, ‘Look how skilled he is,’” Hart says. “He can handle the ball. He’s got gigantic hands. He can just go up and grab the ball with one hand and palm it with ease. It allows him to dunk the ball on people a lot easier in traffic.

“He’s great at getting his own miss. If he misses something in short, he sees where it’s coming off and almost always gets his own miss; a little Moses Malone in him. I don’t know if he’s padding his offensive rebounding stats, but if he misses it, he’s getting it. He really shoots the ball well. I think that’s something people haven’t seen, but he can really shoot the ball and it’s a very efficient stroke. I think he’s going to end up being an excellent shooter at the next level.”

The term “great motor” may get thrown around too much these days, but it may not go far enough to describe Stewart.

“He just has a refusal to be outworked on the court,” Hart says. “He takes each individual matchup very personally. If he’s going up against a Top 300 player, a Top 10 player, he does not want to lose that matchup physically or hustle-wise. He’s going to outwork and outrun whoever he’s up against.”

He isn’t the highly-acclaimed prospect who thinks he has everything figured out either. Hart describes him as “low key” and “inquisitive.”

Stewart is being pursued by some of the nation’s top programs, including Notre Dame and Duke.

“I wouldn’t say those are just the top two, I think he’s got five or six of them up at the top and Notre Dame and Duke are two of the six,” Hart says. “I’d say he probably has 10 overall, but six or so doing better than the other four.”

The Rochester, N.Y., native transferred from McQuaid Jesuit High School to La Lumiere, a boarding school in La Porte, Ind., before his junior season last year.

“I think that’s been a fantastic move for him,” says Hart. “He was a mature kid and the mature kid is looking to establish himself. He has a very close family, a very close relationship with his dad. I think being out on his own allowed him to grow and be him. I think he got comfortable there.

“One of the things he says about Notre Dame is that it reminds him of La Lu and he’s very comfortable there. That atmosphere has been great.”

Former Notre Dame student manager and basketball intern serves as La Lumiere’s head coach.

“I think Pat Holmes has been fantastic,” says Hart. “He’s the right guy at the right time for Isaiah. He’s had good coaches all of the way. He had great coaches at McQuaid, Jack Leasure was very good for him. Sometimes a different voice is good at a different time. Pat and the La Lu staff has been really good...He just seems to like all of the guys and likes the school experience there.”

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