Why D.J. Steward's transfer to Whitney Young has a lasting impact in Illinois


Talented junior guard and reigning Catholic League Player of the Year D.J. Steward made his transfer official earlier this week, as sources confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago that the former Fenwick star has enrolled at Whitney Young.

Since opting to leave the Friars at the beginning of this summer, the Dolphins have always been the rumored local favorite to land the 6-foot-1 Steward. With Steward now officially joining the Whitney Young program, the case could be made for the Dolphins being the potential No. 1 team in the area next season -- fueled in large-part by Steward and new backcourt running mate Tyler Beard.

Last season, Steward was a third-team NBC Sports Chicago All-Area selection, as the smooth scoring guard averaged 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a sophomore. Steward has also been a star on the state's biggest stage. His memorable 10-for-10 performance in the Class 3A state title game loss to Morgan Park came when he was only a freshman at Fenwick.

Whitney Young having two junior high-major recruits in the same backcourt is big news for the local basketball landscape. It gives the city one of the more highly-touted backcourts in recent memory. Beard and Steward should attract a lot of local buzz, and recruiting attention, from fans, scouts and college coaches.

And after two consecutive Class 4A state title game appearances, Whitney Young, once again, looks like a major player when it comes to reaching Peoria next season. The deep-and-talented Dolphins have senior Myles Baker, while plenty of young depth also returns at multiple positions.

But perhaps even more important than Steward's transfer impacting the Public League, and the IHSA state title race, is Steward deciding to stay in Illinois for his junior season in the first place.

Over the last several years, the elite basketball talent drought in Illinois has been noticeable. The state's three-year run without a McDonald's All-American has been a major looming storyline. The talent drought has also been exacerbated by so many high-major college prospects leaving the state to play high school ball elsewhere.

Just in the past two graduating classes, high-major prospects like Landers Nolley (Virginia Tech), Alan Griffin (Illinois), Kahlil Whitney (Kentucky) and Malik Hall (undecided top-100 prospect in 2019) have broken away from the Land of Lincoln after spending at least one season playing IHSA basketball.

Steward had plenty of suitors from the national prep school ranks -- including juggernauts like La Lumiere and Montverde. By staying at Whitney Young, and subsequently staying in Illinois, Steward continues to build on the sterling local reputation that he's developed over the past two seasons.

Basketball-crazy Chicago is craving star power and big-name players. Steward's top-100 national ranking in his class doesn't automatically mean he'll end up an All-American by the end of his high school career. But unlike many of his peers of the past few years, Steward does have the potential to finish a prolific four-year IHSA career as he attempts to elevate his status by playing for a nationally-recognized Public League powerhouse.

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