March 5, 2013
By Tyler Wallace
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Recent success by the Lady Pirates continues to put headlines across the Conference USA universe, but if you look deeper into the program you can see the heart, sweat, and tears behind one woman who has been through it all; senior guard Celeste Stewart.
Stewart has been through her fair share of difficult transitions. Not only did she have to adjust to a new college system as she came from high school, but she was forced to transition once more after her freshman season with the introduction of a new coaching staff.
Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Stewart found early success in her career at Butler High School, winning a 4A state title and obtaining numerous awards as an upperclassman. Awards such as the Southwestern Conference Player-of-the-Year, Second-Team-All-State, News and Observer All-Region Team, Charlotte Weekly Girl's Basketball Super Team, Elite Basketball Player-of-the-Month (March), North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association (NCBCA) All-District and Carolina's Scouting Report Top 25 All-Region Team honors.
Despite the success at the high school level, most players that make the transition into college know that it is no easy task to pick up a college system quickly. Even with the work ethic Stewart holds, she was the victim of a tough transition.
As a freshman at East Carolina, Stewart was unable to make the splash that most expected as she averaged less than four points per game with 1.4 rebounds per contest. The adjustment to the new coaching staff and high paced college game put Stewart into a tough position early.
After the 2009-2010 season, the East Carolina women's basketball program would bring in a new face to lead the charge to C-USA dominance in head coach Heather Macy.
Despite the new buzz created around the program, a player like, Celeste Stewart, would have to transition into a new system yet again. New schemes, new plays, new coaches, and a new type of game; Stewart found herself in a tough situation for the second time in two years.
"Learning how to adapt happens in life so you have to move on with it and keep trucking," said Stewart. "It was a challenge, but with challenge comes experience. Having that opportunity to learn under all of those coaching staffs has made me a better person overall."
Seeing the potential in her sophomore point guard, Heather Macy would look upon young Stewart to take over the program and lead the Pirates to new heights.
"As soon as I arrived, we told Celeste `We are going to build this program around you, and you have to stay committed and stay the course of the things we are going to ask you to do,'" Macy said. "Some of those things we are asked of her were very difficult."
Despite the pressure, Stewart continued to improve and kept on the path Macy put her on.
Through the long summer workouts, one-on-one instruction from Macy, and the tough mental preparation to lead a team through the grueling college basketball season, Stewart would start to take shape as the premier point guard in not just the Pirates' program but also in Conference USA.
Stewart's progression has shown through the years. Even if you've never seen her in action, just by looking at her stat line, you'll see the increase in points per game, rebounds per game, and virtually every other statistical category.
The senior point guard has embraced her role as a leader as she has become more vocal throughout her career and has taken on the responsibility of being a role model to the underclassmen.
This season, Stewart is the Pirates' leader in assists with 115, and is the team's second leading scorer with 11.5 points per game. She has also collected 50 steals and is averaging 3.0 rebounds per game.
Over the last four years, Stewart has given her all on the court and in the classroom as she has grown both as a collegiate athlete and as an individual. Pirate Nation and the Greenville community has been lucky to see the evolution of Celeste Stewart the point guard, as well as the person.