Overlooking SIUE in the Ohio Valley Conference isn’t hard to do. The school, in just it’s third season as a full conference member, is located on the outskirts of the conference’s borders. While they’re just a stone’s throw from St. Louis, they’re more than far enough out of the way that you all but have to be looking for the school to find it.
The former Division II program is slowing making the transition to the new league. Two years ago, SIUE finished the regular season barely on the outside looking in, before notching their first-ever OVC Tournament appearance a year ago. A key cog to their success: a 6’0 sophomore who led the team in scoring, assists, steals, and even played the most minutes — Donivine Stewart.
Stewart isn’t necessary a “fill the stat sheet” kind of guy — he only ranked in the top 10 in the conference in two major categories, assists and steals, and while his 12 points per game was the best on the squad, it ranked 20th in the OVC.
He’s a glue guy — and while, like his team, they’re often overlooked, their contributions are invaluable.
So, how does someone with ho-hum numbers on a team yet to finish over .500 in the conference make our top-10? I can answer that in one word: consistency.
Stewart, a Bradley transfer who red-shirted two years ago, scored in double figures in 22 of the team’s 31 contests a year ago. He never had a game without an assists, and was held under two assists just once all year. Despite averaging more than 32 minutes a game, Stewart was one the best ballhandlers, finishing third in assist-to-turnover ratio. He was able to play those minutes by staying out of foul trouble — committing just 52 all year. Despite his small size, he was also helpful on the glass, averaging three rebounds a game, pulling down at least one in each of his final 14 contests last year.
It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart will be in familiar company next season: the Cougars return their top six scorers from a year ago.
His isn’t a name you’re necessarily likely to see on preseason conference awards lists. He’s not the kind of player that scares you when you walk into the Vadalabene Center.
But he’s the kind of guy, after each game, you look at and realize he had another good night. He’s a glue guy — and while, like his team, they’re often overlooked, their contribution is invaluable.