Tournament namesake Don Stewart applauds this year's event
The fifth Don Stewart Shootout wrapped up last weekend, and the tournament’s host and de facto MC was thrilled with how things unfolded.
Longtime Lely basketball coach Don Stewart, who compiled 456 wins while leading the Trojans to eight district championships and 11 state tournament appearances, said local basketball fans were treated to some thrilling action.
While Stewart was coach, the Trojans hosted the old 7-Up Shootout, which basically held the same concept – bringing the Collier County schools to one place where the local teams could match up with teams they normally wouldn’t see.
“I always thought it was cool to bring all the (local) teams to one place,” Stewart said. “A Collier County basketball fan could see how their teams stacked up against teams from across the state.”
In those days, Stewart said the tournament saw eventual college NBA stars like Steve Blake and Clifford Rozier play in the event. Since the Shootout was reinstated five years ago, that tradition has continued. Former Kentucky star and current New York Knicks rookie forward Kevin Knox played in the event five years ago. This year, local fans got to see Zaire Wade – son of Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade – play for Plantation-American Heritage.
“He’s pretty special, that’s for sure,” Stewart said. “He did some things that really opened some eyes. He got to the basket pretty easily. And some of those up and under moves around the basket, let’s just say you can tell he comes from a good gene pool.”
Still, Community School hung with Wade’s American Heritage squad. The Seahawks trailed by double digits at halftime before rallying to make the game close in an eventual 71-68 loss.
“I thought our local teams played well against some tough competition,” he said. “The fans were treated to some good basketball games this weekend.”
Tournament host Lely went 1-1 over the weekend, losing 62-48 to Class 8A power Coral Gables in the in-school tournament opener Friday afternoon. The Trojans (9-3) defeated Miami-Southwest 59-47 on Saturday evening.
Stewart says he liked what he saw from the Trojans, coached by Fritz Jacques, one of Stewart’s former players.
“Fritz has a very good relationship with his players, they play hard for him,” Stewart said. “And they’re quicker than lighting. Just a very, very fast team, and he’s used that to his advantage. When he played for me, he was one of those kids that understood his role. Not everybody on the team gets to be the leading scorer. Fritz’s role was being our best defender and he really bought into that role. He had the size, quickness and intensity level to shut down an opposing team’s top scorer. He played with a lot of intensity and passion, and you can tell he’s bringing that to his coaching as well.”
Stewart got the opportunity to honor a pair of his former assistants - Kim Francisco and Roger Kindinger – during Saturday’s action.
“Personally, I think it’s important to recognize people that made contributions, not only on the basketball court but behind the scenes as well,” he said. “I’ve always thought high school athletics is about developing young people so they can succeed in life. Things like hard work, teamwork, learning how to win properly, learning how to lose properly, facing adversity – these are all values that are going to help you throughout your life. And there have been so many people that have helped achieve that goal along the way, and they should be recognized for it.”