(Mississippi State photo)
Former Golden Eagle and current Mississippi State sophomore guard Barry Stewart has been named the SEC Men's Basketball Player of the Week.
The announcement was made Monday by the league office.
Stewart had a great career at Shelbyville Central and was named TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Basketball as a senior two years ago after he and the Golden Eagles finished runner-up in the state championship game. Shelbyville took nationally-ranked Memphis Hamilton into two overtimes before a 3-pointer to win the game by Stewart rolled around the rim without falling in the net.
The honor comes after Stewart led the Bulldogs to a 12-point victory over Missouri Sunday afternoon where he scored a career-high 24 points, connecting on 8-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. He also was a perfect 5-of-5 from the foul line.
Stewart also had a personal best seven assists along with four rebounds and a pair of steals.
To say he's representing Shelbyville in a positive manner is an understatement.
He has now scored in double figures eight times this season and 25 times while at Mississippi State.
Stewart has scored over 500 points in less than two years and is averaging 10.6 points a game in his 48-game Mississippi State career.
You can add 94 treys to his career totals. He was also honored last year with selection to the Coaches SEC All-Freshman Team.
I had the privilege of watching him develop into a great basketball player.
Stewart wasn't given great speed or size, he's earned everything he's achieved by dedication and an outstanding work ethic.
He is the perfect example of the phase "Gym Rat."
I can't count the number of times I've walked in the SCHS gym over the past four or five years and seen him shooting.
This past summer I had to stop by the gym for a minute and I heard a basketball bouncing. I went to see who was on the court and it was Barry, dressed in Mississippi State attire, shooting. He was in for a couple of weeks before going back to school for some summer classes. He told me he had been shooting for several hours.
Stewart is a perfect example to our local youth how hard work can pay off. He comes from a very respectable family with a lot of character and also took care of business in the classroom.
Last Sunday night I called Eagle head basketball coach Kevin Thomas to see if he had heard about his performance. We talked a little about Barry and Monday morning Thomas called me and said he'd just received a text message from one of Mississippi State's assistant coaches informing him that Stewart was just named SEC Player of the Week.
We talked about some of the fond memories we had of Barry's high school career and how he set his mind to becoming a better basketball player over the years.
Thomas mentioned what an honor for the program to now have a Mr. Basketball banner hanging in the gym and the hope that it provides for all the young boys in Shelbyville.
On the day Stewart signed to play at Mississippi State, I talked with Bulldog head coach Rick Stansbury on the phone earlier that morning. After talking about signing Barry, he asked me what I thought about Mississippi State getting him.
I told him I thought they got a steal.
Being a Mr. Basketball, Stansbury also asked me how Stewart got out of Tennessee. I replied, "That's a question a lot of us have."
One thing's for certain, the success Stewart's having at the college level has turned me into a Mississippi State fan and I'm sure there are more out there just like me.
Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.