The past couple of weeks has been rough for the Illinois fanbase losing out on supposed locks, Kahlil Whitney and Terrence Shannon Jr. There has been a cloud of negativity surrounding Illinois basketball recruiting as a result. Illini fans are hoping things are going to go a full 180 in the 2019 and 2020 classes. The good news for Illini fans is that there are plenty of options to regroup and add exceptionally talented players to the rebuilding program.
One name that fans will know, if they don’t already, is 2020 6-2″ 150 lb. Point-Guard DJ Steward from Oak Park, Illinois. He is stated to be a Point-Guard but has also been considered a Combo-Guard in National Recruiting Services. The 5* guard had been playing at Fenwick High School for the last two years and enjoyed a lot of success. During his sophomore season, Steward averaged 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals a game on the way to leading Fenwick to a second place finish in the Class of 3A tournament. However, Steward will be joining a mass exodus of players and taking his talents elsewhere because of “personal reasons”. He has not decided where he will be continuing his high school education and athletics yet but stated that he is hoping to have a decision by the end of the month.
Regarding DJ Steward’s recruitment, he has plenty of time to enjoy the process and decide where he’s going. Steward seems to be taking the process very well, describing the overall vibe of his recruitment as “nice and smooth”. Despite his high ranking, Steward hasn’t received as much love from programs in terms of interest. So far the highlights of his offers include “Creighton, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Marquette, and UAB (his first collegiate offer). When I spoke to him about which schools are showing him the most interest he said “Louisville, Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, and Butler are showing me the most interest”. He also went on to say that of those schools, he is most interested in “Illinois, Michigan, and Northwestern”.
Steward also took sometime to discuss his relationship to the Illinois program and it’s staff. He told me that “Illinois started recruiting him last summer” and he’s been interested in them ever since. Steward went on to say that “The coaches and my family have a great relationship. They make sure to stay in contact with me and my family often”. That’s a good sign especially since there have been apparent issues with families and the coaching staff in the past. Additionally, it seems as though Steward really feels the love from the Illinois coaching staff stating that “They make me feel like a priority”. That is music to most Illinois’ fans ears as many have questioned the staff’s priorities recently, when discussing certain players.
Steward is a highly touted player who I expect to get offers from the blue-bloods such as the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world. This usually spells heart-break for Illini fans as it seems those are the programs Illinois loses it’s most prized recruits to. If that doesn’t hurt, Steward told me that “Duke was his dream school when he was younger”. This will concern most Illini fans, so I asked him plain and simply, “What happens if you do get that Duke, dream school offer? Will you jump on it and forget the programs that recruited you for so long? Steward responded to the question stating that he would “definitely value the time of other schools recruiting.” The good news? Duke hasn’t even offered yet and that means it is time for the Illini to close this recruitment down before it can take a turn for the worst.
Steward’s recruitment is far from over however I really do believe that the Illini staff has done a good job making sure they secure a commitment from the Illinois native. Steward would add athleticism, a dynamic ability to put the ball on the floor as well as getting his shot , and a tremendous amount of poise Underwood’s roster. He has also been known to be a high flier which will excite Illini fans to know that we may see some big time dunks in the State Farm Center. With that being said, I am going to make a bold statement and go ahead and put my Aarmani stamp on DJ Steward being a member of Underwood’s 2020 class.
You can follow all of the latest updates of DJ Steward by following him on twitter at @swipasnipa