May 8, 2014

Senior shooting guard closing in on decision

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

Four-star shooting guard Elijah Stewart is the top undecided player in the class of 2014. How the one time Loyola Marymount commitment got to this point is just as interesting as what he's got going on as he looks to make his college decision.

Just a year ago, Stewart was a relatively unknown prospect at Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. By the end of the summer the 6-foot-5 shooting guard had opened some eyes and elevated himself to three-star status thanks to his combination of length, athleticism and scoring ability. There were nibbles from high major programs but Stewart decided back in the fall to sign with Loyola Marymount.

During his senior season, Stewart exploded. He became his team's leader on both ends of the floor and looked like possibly the country's biggest recruiting steal as he climbed to No. 64 in the final Rivals150 for 2014. Meanwhile, LMU struggled, head coach Max Good was dismissed and Stewart quickly became a heavily recruited target upon obtaining a release from his letter of intent.

Late bloomer or overlooked, depends on how you look at it.

"I think it's a little bit of both," Stewart's mentor and summer coach Lionel Benjamin told Rivals.com. "Part of it I could say is my fault. The team I had previous was Team Odom and when I started the Fastbreak program it took a while for people to realize it was my team and my program. When I see coaches I used to deal with they are like oh it's your team and I did take a year off.

"But, I also think a lot of people just really missed out on him. His game really hasn't changed as far as the way he plays. He's gotten better and he's improved, but he's always done those things since he got here. It has just taken some people time to see that he is a good player."

A complete shooting guard prospect, Stewart does a little bit of everything. He can create his offense off the bounce, he has range on his jumper and he is a big time defender who can play all around the perimeter. He needs to get stronger and add a bit more polish, but he has earned everything coming his way. Having to earn things, has helped him keep everything in perspective.

"He's handling it real well," said Benjamin. "He's not like feeding into the whole big school syndrome that some guys have. He's doing his due diligence and research on each school. Fit is a big thing for him so he's making sure he fits into their schemes.

"As far as coaching he's able to adapt to any sytle. Style of play he has always played in an uptempo system at Westchester and that's the way we play with our travel team. That's something he's looking for, a little faster pace."

Interest has come from far and wide for Stewart. USC has been heavily involved and he visited them unofficially. Over the weekend he visited Cincinnati officially and this weekend he heads to Oklahoma State while many others like Pittsburgh, West Virginia, California, Creighton and Missouri have made pitches.

"I think he really enjoyed it. He was more or less shocked by the atmosphere and the surrounding and the city. He didn,t go in with any expectations," said Benjamin of Stewart's trip to Cincinnati. "It was more city like than he expected and that part he liked. He's gotten to know the coaches pretty well. Coach Cronin and Coach Jackson have done a good job of staying on him hard."

Because of his late release and the flurry of attention, Stewart finds himself in a position where he has to build and evaluate relationships on the fly. It's not a bad position to be in, just one that requires he make certain of the moves that he is making.

There isn't a set time for Stewart to end his recruitment a second time, but it will likely happen sooner than later.

"He's going to take this visit to Oklahoma State this weekend and then possibly do one more," said Benjamin. "He took an unofficial to USC a few weeks ago and then he's probably going to make a decision in the next week or so. If he decides to make another visit the next weekend then it would be right after that."


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.




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