STARKVILLE — In a move that was expected by many around the program, Mississippi State’s D.J. Stewart will test the NBA draft process.
However, the 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore guard did not hire an agent, meaning he will retain his collegiate eligibility should he wish to return to school. This is a move similar to what his former teammate, Robert Woodard II, did a year ago, although Woodard II stayed in the draft and was eventually selected 40th overall by the Sacramento Kings.
“First of all, I would like to thank God for blessing me with the talent to be able to play the game of basketball,” Stewart wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter page Thursday. “Playing in the NBA has been a goal of mine since I was a child, and I’ve worked relentlessly to achieve that goal. I want to thank my parents, my family, my coaching staff, my teammates and my Mississippi State family for their support during this process.”
The NBA draft will be held on July 29, while the withdrawal date is July 19.
Over the next few months, Stewart will participate in workouts and interviews conducted by NBA personnel. MSU coach Ben Howland has always advocated to his players to turn pro if they’re projected to be a first-round pick and return to school if not, because the average length of an NBA career is significantly higher for a first-round selection.
The pro consensus on Stewart is split thus far. As of Monday, NBADraftnet.com’s mock draft had Stewart going 35th overall, which would be five spots higher than Woodard was picked a year ago. Other popular mock draft websites like Tankathon don’t even have Stewart listed in its two-round mock.
In his sophomore season, Stewart had a breakout year by averaging 16 points per contest, which was second on the team. Originally playing at the two and three positions, Stewart had to add point guard responsibilities to his palate occasionally and averaged 3.1 assists per night. He had a career-high 32 points in a double-overtime loss against Dayton and made a game-winning shot at the buzzer in the NIT quarterfinals against Richmond last month.
Stewart is an 80 percent free throw shooter and made 41 percent of his shots in the 2020-2021 season and 34 percent from beyond the arc.