Combo guard DJ Steward comes to Durham as the No. 25 overall recruit in the Class of 2020, a crafty playmaker with elite shooting touch from deep who should compete for playing time right away.
Steward spoke with the media Tuesday morning to discuss his NBA player comparisons, his experience playing high school football, his outgoing personality and more. Here are the highlights:
On what the upperclassmen have told him he’s about to experience at Duke:
“They always say that the competition level rises. When we start [official] practice, the competition level’s going to rise, every game is going to be hard. We're the hunted. So we have to also be hunting at the same time…. We have to always go out there and work hard and try and be the hunters.”
On who’s impressed him on the court so far:
“Matt Hurt, and also [Jordan Goldwire], but I'll speak on Matt Hurt first. Matt Hurt is a really good player. He's definitely gotten a lot better, according to what Coach K has said. He’s just an amazing shooter and an amazing scorer, and I'm really excited to see what he does this year.
“And J-Gold has really been leading for us as well, really defending, handling the ball without having any turnovers. So he's been really big for us as well. And he's also been pretty much leading me on the court and telling me where to go and just letting me know how Duke is going to be and how we are going to play.”
On how Coach K has used him on the court:
“Coach K has me playing on the ball and off the ball, which is great because he can mix up the lineups: J-Gold and me, Jeremy Roach and me, sometimes me and Wendell [Moore] out there on the court at the same time.”
On who he’s spent the most time playing in the backcourt with so far:
“So far, I’ve been pretty much with J-Gold a pretty good amount right now. Switching off a little bit, but so far I’ve been with J-Gold more.”
On how playing football in high school has helped him on the basketball court:
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“Toughness wise, mentally and physically. You have to be tough. That's the main thing. And then awareness on the court, having a good IQ, seeing the field and seeing the court as well, knowing where everybody is supposed to be at. Me being a safety, just reading the offense, where the ball is going, just getting underneath the ball as well.
On how he handled the first few months of the summer while the team couldn’t be on campus:
“Just staying positive every day. The coaches contacted the players a lot. We had our own little group chat going for the freshmen and then it expanded into the whole entire team. We had Zooms where we could get to know each other a lot more before we got down here, which helped a lot. And then, as far as me, I had access to a gym, a weight room. So I was able to pretty much get in a gym every day and just work on my game.”
On which players he’s been compared to:
“Lou Williams, CJ McCollum and then a little Ja Morant.”
On how the starting lineup will look this season:
“It’ll definitely be fluid. There [are] 11 players that could potentially play big minutes. So that starting lineup could pretty much change game to game, you just never know.”
On his positive, optimistic personality and how he’s mixed in with his teammates:
“In the locker room, I've mixed in with pretty much every teammate really well. I can connect with them in some sort of way…. And how I move in life—I just move positively, always smiling and just having a positive attitude about everything.”
On where that positive attitude comes from:
“Probably my mom. I mean, my mom is always happy and positive, and I'm pretty sure it just rubbed off on me.”