By Fletcher Page
Chris Mack and Isaiah Stewart go way back.
The two formed a relationship years ago, when Mack was basketball coach at Xavier and Stewart a promising young prospect.
Circumstances have changed. Mack, now at Louisville, is still pursuing the five-star, 6-foot-9 center considered the No. 5 overall player in the 2019 class.
“He’s a winning coach,” Stewart said Thursday at the Nike EYBL event Peach Jam. “You’ve seen what he’s done at Xavier. So, I mean, he’s going to win, no matter where he’s at. He’s definitely had success.”
Louisville is among the final 10 schools on Stewart’s list, which also includes Duke, Georgetown, Indiana, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Texas, Villanova and Washington.
Stewart, a native of Rochester, New York who plays for La Lumiere Prep in Indiana, said he plans to trim his list to five after the Peach Jam and a make a final decision after taking official visits in the fall.
“It’ll definitely be hard, because it’s taking the next step,” Stewart said. “It was hard for me to do it at 10, and now I have to cut five schools out that I have good relationships with. So, definitely not an easy thing to do.
“I’ll start to look more into rosters. Who they have coming in, teammates. Do I feel I can play with them? Are they good guys? The school, the fit. I really look at things like that.”
Duke has been considered the favorite to land Stewart for months. And Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, according to Stewart, has recently increased his calls or texts to Stewart and his family.
“Coach K really thinks I’m a Duke kid,” Stewart said. “I have Duke traits. He really feels I could come in and be a leader. He always tells me he has a certain feeling with recruits and he says he has that feeling with me and I could do great things.”
That means Mack and Louisville must make up ground. Stewart said the Cardinals coaching staff, specifically Mack and assistant Luke Murray, continue to pitch the same key points in Louisville’s favor.
“Just (making) immediate impact and changing the program and developing my game and getting better,” Stewart said.
Above everything, Stewart says his relationship with Mack is keeping Louisville in the running.
“It’s really good,” Stewart said. “I knew coach Mack all the way back to Xavier. Me and him have been talking for a couple years. They’ve been recruiting me hard.”