by Aaron Garcia
In many ways, opposing teams knew exactly what to expect from Sun Valley junior guard Shaun Stewart this season. How could they not? When Stewart arrived on the scene two years ago with fellow junior Jalen Witherspoon, he helped form one of Union County’s most potent backcourts. This year was no exception, as they combined to average more than 40 points per game.
But this season, Stewart elevated his game even further, setting new personal bests in scoring (22.2 points per game), assists (4.7) and steals (2.4) for the Spartans, who won the Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference championship, while Stewart earned the league’s player-of-the-year award.
Now, he can add Union County Weekly’s 2010-11 Boys Basketball Player of the Year to his list.
Stewart said he entered the season with confidence after earning a spot on last year’s all-conference squad, but opposing teams weren’t about to make things easy on him, often employing a box-and-one defense designed to keep his scoring down.
“It (showed) respect, but I had to work harder because of the recognition I got from playing my freshman and sophomore years,” he explained.
But, really, that was the least of his concerns. As an effective scorer, Stewart never really had a problem finding an open shot, regardless of the defense he faced. But before the season, Sun Valley coach Keith Mason and his staff decided to move Stewart from shooting guard to point guard, a switch that came with much more responsibility than Stewart was used to carrying. It took some time to adjust.
“It was very hard,” Stewart admitted. “I had to experience it because I was used to being a scoring shooting guard. I had to experience point guard, and I had to get other people involved. That was a big difference.”
Mason explained that because Stewart is often his own biggest critic, he sometimes grew frustrated on the court, especially in the preseason.
“When you play point (guard), it can be hard to decipher between being a scorer or a playmaker,” Mason explained.
So the two regularly talked about Stewart’s new role, and soon he began to settle into the position. With his comfort came a new-found maturity that Stewart said will serve him well next season and beyond.
“The point guard is the leader of the whole team,” Stewart said. “It gets the whole team on pace. However the point guard is feeling, if he’s in a good mood and everything, it goes around the whole team.”
But Mason added that Stewart’s transition wasn’t just tough on the player.
“(Opposing teams) had to try to figure him out also,” said Mason. “When you’re used to a kid doing certain things, it’s tough (to adjust when they change). As you can see (by Stewart’s) averaging about 22 points and leading the (county) in assists, he got it down pretty well.”