On Monday afternoon, Indiana transfer Parker Stewart announced that he would transfer back to UT-Martin. It’s more than just any normal trip back home though, it means much more.
“This place means a lot to me, I moved down here my freshman year of high school, and everyone took our family with open arms,” Stewart told The Portal Report, “I graduated from UT Martin while I was here so I’m an alum forever. My brother and sister also graduated from UTM. Also, my mom works at the college, and my dad was given his dream job as a division 1 head coach here, so this place will always be special to me.”
His father Anthony spent four seasons as the head coach at UT-Martin before tragedy hit. Just before the start of the 2020-21 season, Stewart passed away at the age of 50 unexpectedly. As any child would do, Parker needed time to grieve and with that, he transferred out of UT-Martin. He made an impact in his sole season in the OVC, averaging 19.2 points per game and leading the league in three-pointers made per game. It was time to take the step back up though as he landed at Indiana.
There, he made some changes to the way he looked. Instead of wearing the number 1 that he wore throughout college, he switched to 45 to honor his father. It was the number that he wore at Mount Union when he played from 1989 to 1993 and he’s planning on continuing to honor his legacy with the number at UTM.
Changing a jersey number doesn’t change the way a player plays though, as Stewart continued to be a three-point assassin at IU. There, he drained 53 on the season while averaging 6.3 points per game. He also started all but three games he played in.
“At Indiana, I learned what it took to win more than anything. I started on an NCAA Tournament team and got to play alongside of some great players,” Stewart said, “I hope to bring some things I learned there and bring them to UTM.”
When the season came to a wrap, Stewart decided to put his name into the portal again. Ryan Ridder and UT-Martin made a call and although it was a completely different program from when he was last there, he was intrigued. It was home, he spent some of the most precious years of his life there and his mother still lived there. It was an offer a kid just couldn’t pass up.
“I didn’t know Coach Ridder prior to him recruiting me, but I got to know him throughout the process. I know he’s all-in on winning, which is what I plan on doing,” Stewart said, “I think there is a good foundation in place and with adding a few pieces, I don’t see why we can’t make a run at the OVC title.”
It has been shown throughout Ridder’s career as he turned Bethune-Cookman into a consistent winner during his three seasons in Tallahassee. Now, he has a key piece to a team in an OVC with no clear favorite next season, that was until Monday.
With this pickup, the Skyhawks will climb up the preseason radar of many people in the OVC.
“In the end, I just want to be remembered as someone who represented the area and the university the right way,” Stewart said, “The hope is to help UT Martin make the NCAA Tournament for the first time which was always my dad’s dream. That would be something I would never forget.”
You have to think that he’s smiling down on this decision and is as proud as ever of his son.