USC junior guard Elijah Stewart has been striving for consistency throughout his career as a Trojan. Now he'll strive to impress NBA front office personnel and executives after entering his name in the NBA draft, the school confirmed Tuesday.
Stewart is leaving open the possibility of returning to the Trojans. He has not hired an agent. The Deridder, La. native becomes the third USC player to announce his intentions to enter the draft joining sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright and redshirt sophomore Shaqquan Aaron. None of the three has hired an agent.
USC’s streakiest shooter went as far as to tell the Los Angeles Times that he will most likely return to school, but he will go through the pre-draft workout process and see what the professional evaluators have to say about his game, where he needs work and what he can do to improve his stock.
Stewart was fourth on the team, averaging 12.3 points, but was one of USC’s most explosive players. He scored 30 points in the season opener, which was the most points a Trojan scored this season. He also had another six 20+ point performances. His seven such outings were also a team high.
The problem for Stewart was that he also had 13 games scoring in single digits, including 10 games with six points or fewer. The postseason provided a perfect Elijah Stewart petrie dish. In the Pac-12 tournament, Stewart scored just four points against Washington, but bounced back with 17 points in a matchup with UCLA — his first game with more than 15 points in a month and a half. But as soon as things looked like they were heading up, Stewart was held scoreless in the First Four game against Providence. He rebounded with 22 points, including the game-winning three-pointer in the first round against SMU before scoring 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting in the season finale against Baylor.
At 6-foot-5, Stewart provides versatility at the college level. He was one of the Trojans’ top outside shooters as well as a threat to throw down a monster jam or two every game. His athleticism flashed most often on the defensive end where he’s made a habit of blocking jump shots and coming out of nowhere to swat away a shot attempt. USC even used him as a forward at times when it used a lineup that featured four guards. He finished second on the team with 42 blocks this season.
But at the NBA level, he will be slotted as a shooting guard and must be able to knock down the three-pointer with increased consistency in order to be of value for a team.
Stewart will now hope to earn an invite to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago that is being held from May 9-14 — an invite neither Nikola Jovanovic or Julian Jacobs received last year. If Stewart refrains from hiring representation from a sports agency, he will have until May 24 to withdraw his name and still be NCAA eligible.
Coming off a school-record 26 wins, USC has an opportunity to return its entire nucleus of rotation players, much like last year, and add some key pieces with Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. becoming eligible and a strong three-man recruiting class coming in. However, the Trojans could also see a similar exodus as last spring if the three players that have already thrown their name into the mix are joined by sophomore forward Chimezie Metu and none choose to return to USC.
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