As the third annual Don Stewart Shootout ramps up this weekend at Lely High School, one area coach is sure to find the event particularly special.
That’s Scott Stewart, son of the longtime Lely basketball coach for which the tournament is named. Scott’s First Baptist Academy squad will play the opening game in the tournament Friday night at 6:30 p.m. against Miami’s Westminster Christian. Lely plays the night cap against Miami’s Schoolhouse Prep at 8. A full slate of seven games begins Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m.
Scott Stewart played four years for his father, graduating in 1989 before suiting up for the University of Florida and competing professionally overseas for 10 more seasons. But he always looks back at his days as a Trojan with much fondness. Serving as Lely’s starting point guard for three seasons, Scott never referred to his father as ‘Dad’ while on the floor.
“He didn’t treat me any different than any other player,” Scott said. “It was never, ‘Hey, dad, could you help me understand the 2-3 zone?’ It was always Coach Stewart.”
Scott Stewart, along with brothers Stacey and Jared, have each become coaches as adults. Don helps Scott as a volunteer assistant at FBA, but not this weekend. Don will serve as the master of ceremonies at the event, doling out Player of the Game awards after each contest.
“I’m very proud of Scott and what he’s done at First Baptist,” Don said. “I’m proud of all my sons for picking up the family business of coaching. This week, I’ll see (Lely coach) Fritz Jacques, who played for me at Lely. Gulf Coast coach Pat Diemert played for me as well. When you see those guys out there, it gives this tournament kind of an extra meaning for me.”
Scott Stewart says it’s quite the honor to play for a tournament named after his father.
“It’s great people recognize his dedication, commitment and passion for youth basketball and high school basketball,” Scott said. “He stayed loyal and committed to Lely High School, which is something you don’t see that much of anymore. He really wanted to see those kids succeed. You talk to former players, and they’ll tell you he was somebody who really loved and cared for his players.”
Scott Stewart has seen plenty of great coaches in his time as a college and professional player, but his father’s loyalty to Lely and commitment to teaching the game of basketball made him stand out.
“He’s always been a student of the game, even now,” Scott said. “He always was trying to get better as a coach. He instilled great characteristics of work ethic, integrity and passion into his players, along with the importance of being a teammate. He’s a real teacher of the game, always correcting mistakes. Teaching fundamentals, stressing why they’re so important. My dad didn’t always have the most talented teams, but he was able to take average players and get them better because he’s such a great teacher of the game.”
Don Stewart says he’d love to see a packed gym for this weekend’s event, harkening back to Lely’s heyday as a basketball program in the 1980s and 1990s, back when tickets for crosstown games like Lely-Naples or Lely-Barron Collier were difficult to come by.
“I look back on those times with such fond memories,” Don said. “The level of competition in our district was amazing. There were truly no easy games. We had Fort Myers in the district, Cape Coral, Mariner. North Fort Myers back when guys like Deion Sanders and Jevon Kearse were playing. Cypress Lake back when they were outstanding. We had some very special teams in those days, and to be able to coach my three sons, it’s something I’ll always cherish.”