Elijah Stewart declares for the NBA draft

Katlyn Lee | Daily Trojan

Junior guard Elijah Stewart declared for the NBA Draft without an agent on Tuesday. The move was first reported by DraftExpress and confirmed by USC.

Joining sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright and redshirt sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron, Stewart is the third USC player to declare without an agent after the Trojans’ surprise run to the Round of 32 in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Like his teammates, Stewart can withdraw from the draft before May 24.

Stewart is not projected to be selected according to most experts’ mock drafts, making a return to USC likely. However, he turned heads during March Madness, pouring in 22 points against SMU and draining the game-winning shot. Six of Stewart’s baskets came from behind the arc, proving his duality across the court as a threat from outside and driving to the basket.

Stewart also added 12 points and four 3-pointers against Baylor, and he was the Trojans’ leading 3-point scorer throughout the 2016-17 campaign, sinking 78 threes. The total led the team by more than 30, with Boatwright and junior guard Jordan McLaughlin in second with 47 3-pointers each. Stewart was also one of the most efficient Trojan shooters from beyond the arc, trailing only McLaughlin in 3-point percentage.

The junior averaged 12.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season while acting as a veteran presence on a team with just five upperclassmen. Stewart’s 175 career 3-pointers is sixth all-time in program history, just one bucket short of tying Harold Miner for fifth. A repeat of last season would catapult him to the top of the list; Lodrick Stewart is currently the all-time leader with 232 made threes from 2004 to 2007, a number that Stewart could catch up to if he continues to heat up from behind the arc.

With a new contract extension and a strong incoming recruiting class, head coach Andy Enfield would surely like to retain Stewart and build on the promising 2016-17 season. Although three Trojans have declared for the draft so far, none of these players have taken on an agent, meaning that they are still flexible in their decision making. Additionally, none of these three players are predicted to go even in the final round in expert mock drafts.

This could change, however, with their performance at the NBA Combine, which will take place in Chicago from May 9 to 14. The combine gives athletes a chance to showcase their abilities in a series of drills, interviews and tests. The results of those five days will be one of the key deciding factors for Stewart and the rest of the players who have declared.

From there, each of the Trojans will have to make a decision to stay or go by the deadline in May. If they decide to stay, they will return to summer ball with the Trojans and look to help Enfield return his team to the NCAA tourney for the third time in a row. If not, Stewart and his teammates will head to the NBA Draft, which will take place on June 22.