Kavon Stewart know he has to play better

Robert Morris point guard Kavon Stewart is averaging 5.2 points and 3.9 assists in ten games this season. Stewart is also shooting just 26.2 percent from the floor, 21.4 percent from three and is 17-34 (50.0 percent) from the free throw line. He has a turnover rate of 26.7 percent, which is a little too high for my liking.

Stewart knows he has to play better. He said as much during media availability before Monday’s game:

“For myself, I don’t think I’ve been playing well at all. I’ve got to do a better job,” he said. “I’m a junior now, I shouldn’t think about whether I should do something or whether I shouldn’t. I just need to go out there and play consistent.”

It’s not easy for everyone to own up to their mistakes, but Stewart has never been one to shy away from being critical of himself.

Overthinking and wavering confidence has always been a problem with Stewart. When someone starts playing bad, it’s easy to get into that “here we go again mindset”. I’m not there, so I can’t ask, but I think Stewart would admit that it happens.

His confidence can almost directly be correlated to the free throw line. When things are going well, #3 is attacking, getting to the line and finishing at the rim and at the charity stripe. There are no stats to back this up, it’s just the eye test.

“I’ve been in the gym more than normal because I know how important it is to get to the free throw line, and when I do get there, to make those free throws,” he said.

The shooting numbers are concerning. Stewart has never been a good shooter, but as the usage rate goes up year after year, the shooting numbers have gotten worse. As a freshman, he shot 41.4 percent from the floor — not a great mark, but respectable. Since then, he’s dipped to 34.1 from the floor as a sophomore and now 26.2 percent through ten games this season.

We speak about transitions for a lot of different players: Pryor transitioning as “the man”, Minnie transitioning to a key secondary scorer, McConnell and Still to the college game, but we don’t talk about Stewart enough in this sense.

Last year’s team was probably perfect for him. He had a go-to outside scorer (Pryor), a swiss army knife senior (Lucky Jones) and another player that excelled at getting to the rim (Marcquise Reed). He could run the offense, and more times than not, get bailed out by them when he needed help.

That hasn’t been the case this season. There’s Pryor, and then what? Stewart is transitioning from the guy who “just runs the offense” to “running the offense and being a scorer and being the best perimeter defender on the team. When you struggle putting the ball in the hoop, and probably lose a lot of confidence in the process, that job becomes a lot tougher.

Peak Stewart has arrived in stretches. RMU’s second half run at Columbia happened not just because Pryor makes any decent look he gets, but also because Stewart was attacking the rim and finishing. The finishing thing has been especially difficult — he’s shot just 37.0 percent at the rim, a team low according to hoop-math.com.

Finishing at the rim is a different conversation for a different time, because this is a team epidemic, not just a Stewart one. However, it’s pretty apparent that things aren’t going to get better until he finishes at the rim.

Also, the free throws. YGTMYFT. It’s the name of Future’s new mixtape, I think. You Gotta Make Your Free Throws. You just have to. Especially for someone who lives at the free throw line (Stewart is second on the team in free throw attempts).

Things will get better in conference play. I know we keep saying this for everyone, but it’s just the truth.

When it comes to the junior point guard, it just comes down to playing with confidence. When he’s in-control, things will look a hell of a lot different. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if you want to see what he’s capable of, go back to last year’s NEC semifinal game against Bryant when he carried the team with a near triple-double. RMU played their best at the end of the season because he was efficient and had a remarkable assist-to-turnover ratio.

“Rodney can score, but he’s going to need some other help. I think when I play at a high level, the team does,” he said.

–Chris Cappella


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