6 years ago, Lely head basketball Coach Fritz Jacques had a brainstorm. Why not revive a defunct holiday basketball tournament and re-name it in honor of his high school coach at Lely, Don Stewart?
Stewart is a local coaching legend due to the success he had as the longtime head coach at Lely High School in the 1980s and 1990s. Jacques was one of his star players.
“It used to be called the 7-Up shoot-out back when I was coaching,” Don Stewart said. “Then the Pepsi Shoot-out. Then it went away for a while. Fritz came to me with the idea. He said, ‘You know what, I want to resurrect that. But I don’t want to call it the Pepsi Shoot-out, I want to call it the Don Stewart Shoot-out.’”
It’s easy to see the mutual respect and compassion the two coaches have for each other.
“I had a lot of great players here,” Stewart said, “and Fritz was one of them.”
“This tournament’s special to me,” Jacques said. “I played in it. When I took over as head coach, I wanted to bring it back, to honor Coach Stewart. He was great to me. Great to this school. The community. Probably one of the greatest coaches I’ve been around. I believe he’s one of the best out there—regardless of the level. I just want to honor him.”
“We’re bringing in good quality teams,” Stewart said, “It’s a challenge. We want people to go away from here impressed with the level of play. And we want to give our local guys a chance to show what they can do. That’s what the Don Stewart Shoot-out is all about. I’m just real happy with the level of play we’ve had this year. I put my life into this school, this basketball team. I’m still very close with the people of Lely—the whole community, really. It’s really very rewarding. I’m real, real proud of Lely High School and what we were able to do. Everybody gets a chance to come back—a lot of the alumni. We try to make it a special thing. We want to build on it every year.”
“I wanted to honor Coach Stewart and now every year he honors someone who was a part of building the tradition here. We want to build on that tradition. We want to keep him here for 30 more years. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
This year Stewart honored Jerry Jolly, a former teacher, photographer, and all-around contributor to the Lely community.
“He and his wife Dorothy fostered 35 children. He did all of this,” Stewart said, waving his hand past the scorer’s table. “He took all the team pictures. We are trying to recognize the great contributions to the Lely community.