Indiana Basketball: Parker Stewart can help IU’s shooting woes

Now that we have made it through the point guards on the Indiana roster for the upcoming season, we can now shift our attention to the other guards.

First on our list is a veteran player who has yet to play a single minute for the Hoosiers, Parker Stewart. Stewart has an interesting, albeit sad, story of how he ended up in Bloomington. Stewart originally committed to and played one season at Pitt.

Stewart went to Pitt to play for Coach Kevin Stallings, but when Stallings was fired after just two seasons at Pitt, several of the players were very unhappy with the universities decision to let Stalling go. Per an ESPN article from March of 2018, Stewart stated that Stallings firing was the primary reason for his departure from the school.

The competition level in the ACC was no problem for Parker, even as a true freshman. Stewart finished second in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (.425) in conference games.  He also knocked down 2.7 threes per contest, which was good for the fifth-best mark in the league.

His overall scoring average was 9.1 points per game, on 38.6% on 3 pointers overall for the season. That’s pretty darn good for a freshman. He also shot 80% from the free-throw line and grabbed 3.3 rebounds a game.

However, after Kevin Stallings was fired at the end of the season, Stewart made the decision to move on from Pitt. With plenty of options for a player of his caliber, Stewart did something I am sure he will never regret, he went to play for his dad, Anthony Stewart, who had been coaching at UT Martin since 2016.

After having a stellar sophomore season at UT Martin, averaged 19.2 points per game, the unthinkable happened. Just as Stewart’s junior season was set to get underway, Parker and his family suffered a terrible, unexpected loss. Parker’s dad, Anthony, at the young age of 50 passed away.

This must have been devastating to the entire family. It’s easy to see why Parker needed a new start. Staying on at UT Martin, and having to watch someone step into his dad’s role as head coach would have been so painful.

Fortunately for Indiana, Parker had a previous connection with Indiana assistant coach, Kenya Hunter. Hunter had recruited him out of high school and had continued to keep in contact with him since. So when it became apparent that Parker was looking for a new place to play, Kenya went back to work and persuaded the grieving young man that Indiana would be a good place for him to call home.

Once on campus, Indiana took things slow with Stewart, choosing not to play him even after he became eligible last season, though they could have desperately used his 3 point shooting. That was the right choice, allowing the young man the time to grieve and to begin the recovery process before putting him back into the stresses of major college basketball.

Now that he has had a little time to begin the healing process, and to develop a new life and routine in Bloomington, Parker Stewart is ready to go to battle alongside his Indiana teammates.

Personally, I expect big things from Stewart. He proved as a freshman at Pitt that he can play at high major college basketball. And from what I have seen, he only got better playing for his dad at UT Martin.

He has good size for a guard, at 6-5, 200lbs, which will serve him well in the Big Ten. He has deep, deep range, and a very quick release. His 41.2% field goal shooting as a sophomore does not concern me. I think he took a lot of difficult shots as the primary scorer at UTM. Shots that he won’t be taking at Indiana, with the depth of talent around him. I think his shooting percentages will improve.

The thing that may excite me the most about Stewart’s game is his ability to create space for himself so that he can get off that deadly jumper. He is not just a catch-and-shoot guy, although he excels at that as well. He is a guy that can go get a shot at the end of a shot clock if need be, and Indiana was desperately in need of that last season.

Stewart is also a great ball-handler and can, if called upon, be a primary ball-handler, which adds to the versatility of Indiana’s backcourt.

I have two question marks about Stewart: 1) Stewart’s prowess on defense, and that is only because highlight reels don’t generally show much of guards playing defense. 2) His turnover numbers at UTM were pretty high, at 3.3 a game. His game logs show 10 games with 4 or more turnovers.

Hopefully, that was a product of him just trying to do too much for a team where he was leaned upon so hard to score and create plays. His role at Indiana should be much more suited to his skills and style of play.

With all things considered, I think that Parker Stewart will be a welcome addition on the floor for Indiana in 2021-22. He adds the one thing that Indiana has needed most–shooting. If he can knock down shots, guard a little, and not turn the ball over, Indiana will be way ahead of last year in the backcourt. The combination of Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, and Scoop Johnson has the potential to be scary good. Throw in Race and TJD with those three, and there shouldn’t be any prolonged scoring droughts.

We did a poll recently on Hoosier State of Mind’s Twitter feed, asking who would make more 3 pointers this season for Indiana. Miller Kopp won with 58% of the fan vote, while Parker Stewart finished second at 39%. I personally voted for Parker Stewart. I think he is that good.

I can’t wait to tip things off in just a few weeks and see who’s right!