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Duke men's basketball 2020-21 player review: DJ Steward

<p>Steward was an excellent shot creator for the Blue Devils.</p>

Steward was an excellent shot creator for the Blue Devils.

As Duke men's basketball wraps up its season, the Blue Zone gives individual breakdowns of each player's season with comparisons to their preseason projections. Read the previous player breakdowns here: Mike Buckmire, Patrick Tapé, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman III, Joey Baker, Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore Jr., and Jordan Goldwire.

DJ Steward

Season breakdown: Steward was an explosive and integral part of the 2020-21 Duke squad from the jump. The ACC All-Freshman posted 24 points in his collegiate debut, and threw down a jaw-dropping fast-break dunk in his third career game. What stood out about Steward’s season was his durability and consistency—he never missed time due to injury, and he posted eight or more points in all but three games this season.  

Steward’s offensive presence primarily involved shooting and slashing. The Chicago native shot a respectable 34.1% from 3-point range, and was able to create his own shot with impressive drives to the hoop and pull-up jumpers. Steward had a particularly hot stretch in the middle of the season, scoring double-digit points in nine of 10 games, all against ACC opponents. The impressive streak was capped off with arguably his best performance of the season, where he led the Blue Devils in scoring—an impressive feat with other elite scorers like Matthew Hurt on the team. Steward’s performance in Duke’s win against Syracuse in February was a microcosm of his season, as he displayed his ability to shoot the deep ball—hitting four clutch threes—and he also held one of Syracuse’s top scorers at bay. Alan Griffin shot just 5-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-5 from distance while being guarded by Steward for much of the contest. The Whitney Young High School product and Duke's domination of Syracuse are made even more impressive given the recent Sweet Sixteen run by the Orange. 

In addition to his direct contributions on the court, the freshman’s energetic and bright personality had a noticeably positive effect on the team throughout the season, also establishing Steward as a favorite among Duke fans. 

Results relative to expectations: Steward exceeded expectations in nearly every regard. His season averages of points, rebounds and minutes surpassed the Blue Zone’s predictions. Most noticeably, he played bigger than his size led many to expect. Despite standing at 6-foot-2, Steward was able to create his own shot almost anywhere on the court, and frequently had the task of defending opposing guards who had a few inches and pounds on him. 

Entering the season, Steward was a 19-year old freshman joining a league of upperclassmen with years of collegiate experience. The undersized shooting guard was not intimidated—he went toe-to-toe with bigger, more experienced players and logged substantial minutes for the Blue Devils—contributing valuable offensive firepower when needed. 

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