Tennessee’s basketball coaching staff continue to push hard for some of the top prospects in the 2019 class. And on Friday, head coach Rick Barnes was spotted watching one of the highest-rated players in the upcoming recruiting cycle.
According to Adam Zagoria, Barnes was one of several coaches in attendance to watch five-star center Isaiah Stewart play during Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League on Friday night.
UCLA’s Steve Alford, Duke’s Nolan Smith, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, Texas’ Shaka Smart also on hand https://t.co/727ia9d2L4
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 28, 2018
Stewart was recently bumped up in the updated recruiting rankings on 247Sports. He went from the No. 25 overall player to the No. 14 overall player in the composite rankings, further solidifying his status as a five-star. He’s now the No. 4 center in the entire 2019 class and is the top player in the state of New York by those rankings.
Barnes and his staff have made Stewart a huge priority this month. Tennessee had a planned trip to go visit Stewart back on April 16th, and they’ve continued to be in contact with him since. The Vols gave Stewart his first Division I offer way back in April of 2016, but his recruitment has taken off in the two years since.
Since that first offer from Tennessee, Stewart has added over three dozen other offers. He currently holds offers from Duke, Georgetown, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, UConn, Kansas, Florida, Louisville, Memphis, Xavier, Texas, and many others. UCLA and Villanova extended offers to him this last week as well.
Stewart isn’t some pudgy center who just has a big frame and is able to bully smaller players at the high school level; his 6-foot-8, 243 pound frame is already sculpted into solid muscle. And it’s easy to see from his highlight film why so many schools want him. He has great athleticism and can move extremely well for a power forward/center. He’s strong in the post and has a variety of moves down low. He knows how to use his frame to position for rebounds and is an effective glass cleaner. Not only that, but he can actually pass pretty well too.
As a junior, Stewart averaged 20.2 points and 11.3 rebounds a game and was named an honorable mention for the MaxPreps Junior All-American team.
Tennessee has thus far offered 10 centers in the 2019 recruiting cycle, and Stewart is one of three players at that position Tennessee is targeting the hardest. Four-star D.J. Burns is also one of the Vols’ top targets in the 2019 cycle, and fast-rising three-star Jason Jitoboh, who is in Chattanooga, is another main target at center. The Vols recently offered four-star and top-50 overall player Kofi Cockburn at the position as well.
Expect the Vols to continue and try to get Stewart to commit and ultimately sign with them in this cycle. Their competition will be fierce, however, and most of Tennessee’s competitors for Stewart will be blue blood programs in college basketball.