Stewart moves to forefront of women’s team

Tyler McIntosh

Senior La’kia Stewart has recorded seven double-doubles this season as a full-time starter for the Flashes. She won the Sixth Man of the Year Award last season.

Caitlin Prarat | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

In her first three years, La’Kia Stewart’s duties on the Kent State women’s basketball team were not overly important.

She was just a role player whose job was to come off the bench and try to make some plays. If she wasn’t on that night, no worries, there was always someone else there to step up.

Now a senior, everything’s been flipped for Stewart, who is still trying to make the adjustment from follower to leader.

“I’m just trying to be more of a leader and score more,” Stewart said. “There’s more pressure, because in previous years if I’ve had a bad game, we had seniors pick it up. Now if I have a bad game, it really shows.”

That’s an accurate statement to say the least. In Kent State’s 12 losses, Stewart averages 9.75 points, 7.25 rebounds and 1.6 steals a game on 48 percent shooting.

However, in the Flashes 15 wins, Stewart’s numbers balloon to 16.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals a game while shooting 59 percent from the field.

“It’s a little bit of pressure, but it is what it is,” Stewart said. “I have to play good for us to win, and I definitely have to play good in the tournament for us to go far and compete for a championship.”

“Coach (Bob Lindsay) always told me that when I’m not active and I’m not aggressive, I’m just an average player. I can be really good if I’m aggressive and active.”

Finding a happy medium has been hard for Stewart, the MAC’s sixth leading rebounder. She has had dominating performances – like her 28 point, 12 rebound effort Jan. 27 against Toledo. But she has also had a few less than stellar performances. For example, the 3-for-11, six turnover outing against Bowling Green Feb. 20.

“Being inconsistent is what’s killed me, basically,” Stewart said.

Helping Stewart fight through her erratic play has been associate head coach Lori Bodnar. Stewart said Bodnar has helped shape her into the type of player she is today.

“Coach Lori has always helped me with shooting. She’s always come into the gym with me. She’s always helped me with everything like that,” Stewart said. “She’s also my academic coach. I’ve spent a lot of time with Coach Lori.”

As far as Stewart’s leadership goes, her teammates seem to think she is doing a commendable job.

“If someone isn’t doing what they are supposed to do, ‘Kia is going to get on them,” senior guard Kristin Peoples said. “She’s a great leader. When things get tough on the court, she picks us up. She makes big plays on the court and off the court. She’s a great person.”

The definition of a “blue collar” player, Stewart has provided versatility this season that is second to none for Kent State.

“I just try to get up and down and bring some energy to the team,” Stewart said. “Get some rebounds, steals and stuff like that. I try to get myself around the basket, slash and make 15-foot jump shots.”

Stewart said that’s what she’s been known for since she was part of two Public League Championship teams at Central High School in Philadelphia, where she was a two-time First Team All-City League selection.

“That’s just always been my game,” she said.

With only five players returning next season, it will be hard to find another player who can duplicate the all-around play that Stewart has provided this season. In fact, Stewart isn’t sure that her heir apparent is even on the Kent State campus right now.

“Next year, they are going to have to have Me-Me (Jamilah Humes) be aggressive and have Rachel (Bennett) come back,” Stewart said. “They’ll have some good players. Me-Me can be a really good rebounder, but she’s a guard. They don’t really have another 4 player on the roster right now.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].