And played well enough to contribute 12.4 points over the course of his junior season, and to move into the 1,000-Point Club for his career. In fact Stewart will go into the senior campaign 21st on the all-time Bulldog scoring list at 1,178. With a good year from the arc he can become the career three-point champ as well, needing 56 more treys to catch Darryl ‘Super D' Wilson's mark of 258 (made in his three years, it must be noted).
But for this final go-round Stewart intends a bigger impact than his previous three years, and figured to do so meant…well, getting bigger. He's still the same 6-3 height but the frame has indeed packed on almost fifteen more pounds than what he has typically toted up-and-down the Humphrey Coliseum court by the end of SEC season. And as admiring fans noticed last week at the Central Mississippi Extravaganza when Stewart reported in uniform to represent Bulldog basketball, the extra muscle(s) really are noticeable.
"My summer has been going pretty good," Stewart said, "working and playing pick-up with the guys." What is interesting about his summer schedule is the June work was not done with the guys on campus. Stewart spent the first summer semester back home in Shelbyville, Tenn. Not taking it easy, mind; not at all. "I was training every day, lifting weights, then I'd go to the gym and shoot," he stressed to those who might wonder if the senior was pulling rank and goofing off.
"I think I needed a little time away, it was more so from school. I've been in school all this time and just needed a little break. I'm back at it now." Which means back under the gentle care of Coach Richard Akins for weight workouts, then finding an open court somewhere to play some summer ball.
Oh, all of this after taking care of the first half of the student-athlete equation. "I'm taking three computer classes in summer," he said. "That's a full-load. It's been time-managing and a little tough on me, but I'll be alright. If I pass all these I'll be on schedule for May next year to get my degree. It's been a long road but I'll get there." Stewart was working toward a degree in information technology services.
Of course the information fans want passed along is expert inside opinion on just how the Bulldogs are looking individually and collectively this summer. Though he skipped June action it hasn't taken Stewart any time at all to get up to informal game-speed with the guys. And when he says ‘game' he means it.
"We usually play five-on-five, whoever picks who and then rotate in-and-out. We've got a lot of guys on the team this year." And that's been without a complete roster as center Jarvis Varnado was away over two weeks with his World University Games trip, while a couple of veterans have yet to return to campus. Still there are more than enough bodies at the gym for two full teams with alternates impatiently awaiting their turns.
Interestingly, Stewart doesn't use his elder Dog status much in such settings. "We usually let the points guards pick the teams, Twanny (Beckham) and Dee (Bost)," he said. Well then, does he ‘encourage' the pickers to look his way first every time? "I don't worry about that!" laughed Stewart. "It doesn't matter, I'm going to be the same player whether I get picked first or last."
Whatever the lineups the action is reportedly quite competitive, but Stewart disappoints when asked what the best fivesome he's seen so far might be. "I can't give that information out!" Nor will he predict what will be the first-team when real practicing begins this fall…not that he's worried about it at this point anyway. What the senior does expect is that whatever lineup Coach Rick Stansbury assembles, it is going to be a winner this winter.
"I always wait until practice starts, you can tell a lot in conditioning and practice. But, we've got a good chance. We've got a great chance, really. The guys we have playing pick-up have a lot of talent." And that's been without ‘Swat' too, though of course his talent is established. Speaking of whom, Stewart has discussed Varnado's excursion to Serbia where the USA Team won the bronze medal.
"He's back and glad to be back. He said it was an experience for him being over there, out of the country and not having the things here in America. It was different, and Mississippi looks a lot better now. A lot better!"
Certainly Stewart is looking better, and bigger, these dog-days of summer. There is the minor concern of whether those extra pounds might have a downside over the long haul, especially for a fellow who averaged almost 32 minutes last season and has to play full-court at full-speed. "I can carry it," Stewart insisted, "It's not that big a difference." Gaining good weight has been a summer objective for some other Dogs, such as wingman Ravern Johnson; while a few frontcourt fellows have been trying to trim.
"Kodi (Augustus) has been working hard in the weightroom and he's looking good," Stewart said. "Elgin (Bailey) has been through re-hab and is getting up-and-down, lifting with us a little bit." Ironically a year ago it was Stewart in re-hab after breaking an ankle in, of all things, pick-up play with teammates. He's been more careful this time around while tuning some technical aspects of his game. Without, of course, direct input from his coaches. In fact Stewart hasn't seen Stansbury in quite a while.
"Coach uses this time to stay away, because we're going to see him all the time (during the season)," said Stewart. "I love that, you've got to appreciate a coach that trusts you enough and expects you to do what you're supposed to do."
So, Stewart and squad will keep doing just that for the coming summer weeks and fall months until everyone assembles for real October practicing. "We'll be lifting weights and playing, shooting on your own time." Lots and lots and lots of shooting, that is. By the way, Barry, how is the longball looking this summer?
"It's dropping pretty good. I'm working on every aspect of my game, but the three is a given!"