ELFRIDA — For Valley Union senior Zeke Stewart there is nothing more enjoyable to him that being on the basketball court.
Stewart wrapped up an amazing high school career this past week finishing with just under 1,300 career points in over 80 games, all as a Blue Devil.
Stewart, who was born in Virginia and came to Elfrida from Tennessee when he was in the eighth grade, has been playing basketball since he was 4-years-old.
“My dad played basketball in high school and at a community college,” he said. “I picked up the game from him.”
Stewart said playing basketball for coach Jeff Baker at Valley Union these past four years has been a lot of fun and also, very rewarding.
“I wish we would have done better when it came to the wins but overall, I’ve really enjoyed playing here,” he said. “I’ve had some really good coaches and teammates.”
According to Maxpreps.com, Stewart played in 24 games as a freshman and averaged 7.9 points per game. Those numbers ballooned to 17.6 points per game as a sophomore and last year, as a junior, increased to 20.9.
“It has been a complete pleasure to coach Zeke this past four years,” Valley Union coach Jeffrey Baker said when talking about his departing senior. “Zeke came in and was a starting point guard as a freshman and has been the team MVP each of the past three years. He has made the all section team twice and was in the running for section player of the year last season.”
This year Stewart is playing fewer games because of COVID-19 but he is averaging 20.2 points per game and on two straight nights early in the season in front of the hometown crowd, nailed back to back buzzer beaters in thrilling come from behind wins over Tombstone and Fort Thomas. In the win over Fort Thomas he scored the last 14 points of the game for the Blue Devils, including the game winner with five seconds remaining giving his team a thrilling 51-50 win. He finished the night with a season high 34 points.
“It is so easy to coach him, even with his talent to score, he always thinks pass first and rebounds and plays defense at a high level,” Baker said of Stewart. “He has been the player every coach wants to have on his team and just a great young man, like our other seniors, to be around. A 20 point, five assist, five rebound and two steals a game player, gives every team a shot to win.”
Stewart admits he would like a shot at playing collegiate ball somewhere after high school but if not given the opportunity he’s fine attending college somewhere and focusing on his academics.
The Valley Union senior admits he likes those moments where his team is battling and the game is on the line and the clock is winding down. The ball comes to him and he puts up the shot, and for a brief second the gym goes quiet before erupting into cheers as the shot splits the net giving his team the win.
“To be honest I’d prefer someone else take those shots,” he said. “My coaches and teammates seem to want me to shoot more where I’d prefer to shoot less and help the team in other aspects of the game.”
Looking back on his career at VU, Stewart says he will always remember the friends he’s made through basketball and the good times they experienced both on the road trips as well as at home.
“No matter where we were we always found a way to have fun,” he said.
He states the family support he’s had these past four years has meant a lot.
“My biological father was just out here from Virginia several weeks ago and stayed here for about a week and a half,” he said. “My mom and my step dad have been at all my games. It seems I always play my best games whenever they are there.”
While he would like to make a return trip to state his final season at VU, Stewart is aware that may not be the case this year.
“I’m just happy we got to have a season,” he said. “For a while there we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to play this year. Going through what we did this year has helped me appreciate the game a whole lot more. I’ve really enjoyed being out here with all these guys. They’re all good friends and we get along. I’m going to miss playing basketball with them when it’s over.”