Jim Hart paused.
The long-time Owner, Director and Head Coach of the City Rocks was just asked to describe the importance of Isaiah Stewart, his prized big man who was soon-to-be-named Atlanta's Most Valuable Player.
The next words Hart spoke came with a different voice inflection. There was an immediate joy and proudness in his tone that caught me by surprise. The opening words that accompanied Hart's giddy tone confirmed what I expected.
Isaiah Stewart isn't just another player.
What I didn't expect was Hart continuing to give one of the most confident, glowing reviews of a prospect I've ever heard. Hart set the scene quickly.
"When we started this program over 20 years ago, we had a vision of what we wanted it to be," Hart explained. "All of those things you dream of; character, work ethic, respect, dedication, being an ambassador of the program."
"It's literally Isaiah."
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man is equipped with all of the intangibles listed by Hart, and a heck of a lot of natural talent.
Stewart was absolutely dominant during session three. In four wins at EYBL Atlanta, Stewart averaged 20.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and shot 65.4 percent from the floor. His performances helped improve the Rocks to a 9-3 record and a berth to Peach Jam.
Stewart's individual numbers are stellar, and it's a treat to watch him go to work in the paint. His physique begs the question if he's sculpted out of marble, and his footwork is miles ahead of most frontcourt prospects.
But again, it's his intangibles that set him apart. Stewart is a superstar, but you wouldn't know it by how he operates around his teammates and the media.
“It's great when your best player impresses everyone else on the team,” Hart explained. “Everyone I talk to, just like you, is so impressed by how Isaiah interacts and how he treats them.”
“There are a lot of cliches about being a great kid, but this kid is the real deal - there is no cliche with isaiah.”
Our own Brianna Lewerke echoed Hart’s sentiments.
“Isaiah has the respect and class off the court of someone far beyond his years.” Brianna said. “He has always been overly kind to me and each media media member he speaks to. Isaiah is a special type of player and person.”
Stewart pairs a non-stop motor with his elite talent & budding skills, and is extremely vocal on defense. Hart knows what he has is rare.
“It’s inspiring to watch how hard he plays,” Hart said, repeatedly coming back to the impact he has on his teammates. “He’s the rising tide that lifts all boats.”
Hart knows he only has Stewart for a few more months, and he plans on taking advantage of it. The obvious goal is a Peach Jam title, and Stewart has led the Rocks to a great standing through three sessions. Regardless of what the EYBL future holds, Stewart’s impact has already been heard loud and clear.
"Isaiah embodies everything we’re trying to build,” Hart said. "He's going to be the new standard for what we're looking for down the road."
Stewart holds over 40 offers, including nods from Duke, Villanova, Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan and many other blue-bloods. Basically, he can go to whichever school he wants.
“Whatever college gets him, should be absolutely ecstatic,” Hart added.
His talent is undeniable, every other aspect about Stewart’s makeup is what will make him a success. That’s why, according to Hart, this most recent accolade of ‘Most Valuable Player’ is the perfect tip-of-the-cap to Stewart’s developing pedigree.
“Isaiah adds value in everything he does,” Hart said. “He just makes things better.”
“He's going to carry that with him for life.”