As some of you may know, running this blog is something I do as a hobby, not as a full-time gig. Earlier today, as I was driving to the scene of a house fire, I thought of a crafty, creative led for this article on Robert Morris point guard Kavon Stewart.
Of course, I can’t remember the lede anymore, so you’re stuck reading mumbo-jumbo about my boring life.
Somehow, I think that analogy still works for Stewart: hoping for more but getting a little bit less.
Last year at this time, perhaps the two guys playing the best basketball on a team that won an NEC championship were Rodney Pryor and Stewart. The Colonials still have those two guys, but in an altered, different way. Pryor was first team all-NEC, but completely lost his three-point shooting touch. He shot just 25 percent from downtown in conference play on a team that desperately needs to make some shots.
At least with Pryor, he still found a way to positively impact games in different ways. He has a nice mid-range jumper, gets to the rim, is great in transition, is a good defender and a beast on the boards.
The same can’t be said for Stewart, who has had a rough go his junior year. It’s not that the numbers are bad (we’ll discuss that later), but the timing and expectations just feel… off. My man-crush with #3 has been well documented. I made the case why Stewart was the best PG in the NEC prior to the season. That didn’t turn out right, but one premise has remained the same.
This team still goes as Stewart does.
Last year, Robert Morris was a shiny corvette with lots of toys. This year, they’ve been more like a Volkswagon. The thing is, everyone else on the road is also driving a Volkswagon. Follow?
Stewart can turn around a lost season by putting together three excellent games of basketball. RMU’s formula for playing (and winning) close games is pretty simple: Pryor scores in the 20’s, a few role players step up and Stewart finishes around 10 to 15 points with double his assists to turnovers.
RMU has won 10 games this season. Stewart has played in significant minutes in nine of them, suffering a sprained ankle in the first win of the year. In those nine games, Stewart averaged six assists to 3.2 turnovers. He failed to score at least ten points in just two of those wins.
That’s not to say he’s played bad in all of RMU’s losses, because that’s not the case. He looked great in losses to Bucknell, Wagner and Sacred Heart, just to name a few. But by and large, the difference is obvious. In RMU’s last two losses, Stewart has two assists to 11 turnovers.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not like his numbers took a huge dip this season. His free throw percentage, at the sacrifice of a few more grey hairs, has dipped, but his two-point field goal percentage is up, he’s drawing more fouls, turning the ball over less and assisting more. His assist rate, a metric designed to measure assists per made basket taking into account playing time, was tops in the country.
The problem becomes, with changed roles and expectations, simply “being just as good as last year” hasn’t cut it. He needs to be the most in-control player on the floor these next three games, or RMU has no chance. That was the case last year, and in just about every win, has been the case again.
It’ll be interesting to see how Stewart responds coming off a bad game Saturday. If he is shaky to start things, will Toole be more likely to give a McConnell-Whitley backcourt more run?
To me, it really comes down to this: RMU can survive a bad game from Billy Giles or Isaiah Still if Pryor and Stewart get going.
There won’t be another game if you flip that around.