Like most basketball aficionados, Whitney Young High School (Chicago) combo guard D.J. Steward was wide-eyed at the moves in NBA free agency this summer.
From Anthony Davis joining LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving linking up in Brooklyn with the Nets to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George taking their talents to the Los Angeles Clippers, Steward began to think about the possibility of forming his own super team in college.
“I was shocked at all the moves,” Steward said. “All those stars on one team? Man! That got me thinking. We all want to win; why not better our chances and do it together.”
That’s why he’s even more receptive when guys like IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) wing Jalen Johnson, ranked No. 9 in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25, and Paul VI High School (Fairfax, Virginia) point guard Jeremy Roach text him constantly about potentially joining them at Duke.
“They stay in my ear,” Steward said. “It’s something to think about.”
Package deals aren’t a new phenomenon.
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In 2006, Mike Conley and Greg Oden plotted and executed their plan to team up at Ohio State. In 1991, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose made good on their plan to team up at Michigan, joining Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson to form the famed Fab Five.
In 2014, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones announced that they were meeting up at Duke live on national TV simultaneously.
And in 2018, Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish linked up at Duke, giving the Blue Devils the first-ever class featuring the country’s top three players.
“When you play with other elite players it’s just different,” said O’Dea High School (Seattle) forward Paolo Banchero, . “You just understand the game on a different level with them and it makes everything easier.”
Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, North Carolina) forward Isaiah Todd said his mentality is “more old school.”
“I’m not out looking for just five stars to team-up with,” said Todd, who is ranked No. 7 in the Chosen 25. “I look more for pieces. If one of my guys happened to be a superstar, but he just complemented me and was good at what he does then that’s cool. I’m not just out there looking to make an all-star team though.”
Banchero has been buying-in to the super team idea ever since he watched James join the Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat in 2010.
Banchero, ranked No. 4 in the Chosen 25 for 2021, said that being exposed to other elite players in the Nike EYBL and with USA Basketball for multiple years creates organic friendships and chemistry.
“You’re all going through the same stuff and you’re all at the same level,” Banchero said. “They can relate to how hard recruitment is and everything like that. Then you get on the court and they’re as talented as you are and because of that you’re winning. We all love to win.”
Briarcrest Christian School (Eads, Tennessee) point guard Kennedy Chandler concurred and he would know.
In the last year, Chandler, ranked No. 14 in the Chosen 25 for 2021, has won a state title and a Nike Peach Jam title with Mokan Elite (Missouri); he said, once he’s committed, recruiting other stars to join him will be priority No. 1.
“We all want the best chance to win at the next level,” Chandler said. “I’ll definitely be a guy trying to get other stars to play with me when that time comes. That’s what’s been getting it done in the NBA. It just makes sense for us too.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY