'Ant Pugh Camp' at Robert Morris pays dividends for junior Stewart
February 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Kavon Stewart is the starting point guard for Robert Morris, but one of his unheralded teammates is racking up plenty of assists.
By Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Behind every great junior point guard there is a great freshman walk-on.
At least that’s the case at Robert Morris.
Junior Kavon Stewart’s play the past five weeks has been a vast turnaround from the first 12 games of the season, and it might be because of freshman Anthony Pugh.
Pugh, a 5-foot-8 reserve guard, has been the 6-foot starter’s personal coach, of sorts, since around the holidays. The two meet before every practice and game so Pugh can run Stewart through several shooting drills — free throws, floaters, 3-pointers and more.
Before the sessions, Stewart shot 26.6 percent from the field. In the past 11 games, he’s at 41.2.
“The coaches joke around and say that I’m his trainer,” Pugh said. “They laugh because it’s like I’m the veteran point guard teaching him, but he’s a three-year starter, and I’m a freshman walk-on.”
Stewart said Pugh is always the first one on the court for practice, so one day he joined him, and that’s how the training began. The team has taken to calling it the “Ant Pugh Camp,” and Stewart said Dec. 29 after he played well at Georgia — the first game after starting the sessions — he had found something that worked and kept doing it.
From Pugh’s view on the bench, he sees what shots Stewart misses in a game, then alters their shooting sessions appropriately. Sometimes even in a game when Stewart is at the free-throw line, he’ll look to Pugh on the bench who says, “shoot it higher” before following the directions and sinking the shot.
“They’ve really developed a really cool thing,” said coach Andy Toole, whose Colonials face Central Connecticut at 7 p.m. today at Sewall Center. “And obviously … Kavon has played exceptionally well. So I think there’s been something to it.”
Stewart might not be the only one benefiting. While Pugh has played only five minutes in two games this season, he netted Robert Morris’ only 3-pointer and his first points for the Colonials in a 70-49 loss Jan. 28 at Mount St. Mary’s, coming off the bench with just minutes to play.
But after the big play, Pugh went right back to preparing Stewart. Toole said after practice Monday that he teased Stewart as he and Pugh walked out of the gym together saying, “What, now you can’t go anywhere without Ant?”
Well, Stewart and Pugh have been on hourlong road trips.
“It’s crazy, how close we are, how close we became,” Stewart said. “Not even on the basketball court. I even go to his house. His mom is nice and allows us over.”
Stewart’s progress with Pugh’s help is undeniable, but the freshman demurred.
“They’re trying to say that it’s me. In reality, it’s not,” Pugh said. “I just think it’s all in his head. But whatever it takes.”
Matchup: Robert Morris (6-17, 4-6 Northeast Conference) vs. Central Connecticut (2-19, 1-9), 7 p.m. today, Sewall Center.
Robert Morris: Coming off 90-78 loss at Saint Francis, Pa. … Freshman G Isaiah Still scored a team-high and career-high 25 points, 23 in the second half; sophomore F Elijah Minnie tallied a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. ... Has the worst 3-point percentage in the NEC at 29.3, the only team below 30.
Central Connecticut: Coming off 60-49 loss against St. Francis, N.Y. … Sophomore F Mustafa Jones scored a game-high 14 points while senior F Brandon Peel had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. … Ranks last in steals in the NEC with 4.86 per game.
Hidden stat: Freshman G Matty McConnell has 13 steals in Robert Morris’ past four games and ranks sixth in the league with 1.75 per game.
Megan Ryan: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @theothermegryan.
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