Isaiah Stewart Will Bring Workmanlike Mentality to Nike Hoop Summit
Isaiah Stewart used to watch as his dad, Dela Stewart, returned from a long day of working in construction with all the visible signs of a hard day’s work.
“I remember him coming home being so ashy and white from working a jackhammer in construction,” said the 6-foot-9 Stewart, a high school senior from Rochester, New York, who played his junior and senior seasons at La Lumiere School in Laporte, Indiana.
“Every day he gets up at 5 a.m., goes out, comes home at dark, tired,” Stewart said of his dad, an immigrant from Jamaica who worked multiple jobs and long, hard hours to provide for Isaiah, his three brothers, four sisters and mom Shameka Holloway.
“He worked hard in all types of jobs, from plantation fields to make money, to construction. I got my work ethic, my fire and desire from him,” Isaiah added.
Now a highly touted center, Stewart has modeled his father’s nose-to-the-grindstone attitude to become, at age 17, one of the most dominating basketball players in the high school class of 2019. Further evidence of that came with his selection to represent the United States in the Nike Hoop Summit on Friday, April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Tickets)
After two seasons at McQuaid Jesuit in his hometown of Rochester, the high-motor big man transferred to La Lumiere, where last year he earned the opportunity to play in the Geico High School Nationals. This year, La Lumiere is the No. 1-ranked team in the country and the No. 1 seed in the Geico Tournament, which takes place April 4-6 in New York City.
Choosing to leave McQuaid Jesuit was difficult, because everyone in Rochester knew who Stewart was, and when McQuaid Jesuit went to an opposing gym, the place was packed.
“But I had to make that sacrifice of leaving Rochester and my family, my brothers on that team, to learn how to get better and play better,” he said.
Stewart attended three USA Basketball minicamps from 2017 through 2018, and at 17 is young for the U.S. team set to take on the World Select Team at the Nike Hoop Summit.
Last summer, he earned his first selection to a USA Basketball team and helped win a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina while wearing the USA across his chest.
“Every time I hear from USA Basketball, it’s with a spark and a smile,” he said. “I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what’s going to happen next. I prayed and prayed about that, from the first time when I didn’t get a chance at U16, I literally prayed every day from there that I’d get a chance to be on U17, even just to try out for the team.
“Winning the gold medal, it was a lot of emotions at once. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here in Argentina.’ We put in the time and work at practice, going hard, playing together, not being selfish. We really felt this group was the best 12 players in the world. When that alarm went off to end the game and the confetti came down, I was ready to run through a brick wall. It felt like we were celebrating on the court for an hour.”
Stewart has verbally committed to attend the University of Washington in the fall. He said he gets that same feeling of community and family at Washington that he gets from La Lumiere.
He takes the school part seriously and enjoys math and economics, often difficult subjects, but areas that spark an interest. Just like anatomy, which is a natural area of concern for high level athletes.
Stewart makes sure he gets proper rest and proper nutrition to refresh his mind and body.
“For the caliber of athlete I am and for my age, there are a lot of things going on at once,” Stewart said. “It’s always good to sit back, relax and be in the moment, like to get massages or speak to my dad. I speak to my dad a lot. He mixes me all kinds of health drinks that I sometimes don’t like, with lots of fruit and veggie juice, but they are good for me.”
Meanwhile, he is preparing for the next stops on his basketball journey at the Geico Nationals and the Nike Hoop Summit.
“I’ve learned to always appreciate this orange ball and the little circle you put it through,” he said. “It can take you places you never thought you’d go.”