Skyhawks MBB makes history with 2022-23 All-OVC selections

 Skyhawks MBB makes history with 2022-23 All-OVC selections

A high-scoring trio of UT Martin guards were voted as All-OVC men’s basketball performers Tuesday as Parker Stewart, Jordan Sears, and KJ Simon earned that prestigious title from the league’s head coaches and communications directors.

Stewart and Sears were both named to the 10-man All-OVC first team while Simon was part of the five-member All-OVC second team. Sears was also one of five players tabbed to the OVC All-Newcomer team.

It’s the first time in school history that the Skyhawks have produced three players on the All-OVC first or second team in the same season. The duo of Stewart and Sears become the first set of UT Martin teammates to appear on the All-OVC first team list during the same year.

In addition, Stewart and Simon become the fourth and fifth players in program history to be named to the All-OVC first and second teams in a career – joining a list that includes Quintin Dove (2018-20), Ryan DeMichael (1995-99) and Michael Hart (1994-96).

Parker Stewart (photo: UTM Sports)

A 6-5, 205-pound graduate student, Stewart cemented his reputation as one of the league’s most lethal scorers. He currently ranks second in the OVC in three-point field goals made (3.0 per game) and third in scoring (16.7 points per game) while shooting 37.7 percent (83-of-220) from three-point range and 75.3 percent (73-for-97) from the free throw line. He went off for seven games of at least 20 points and a pair of 30-point outings – dropping a career-best 34 points (on 11-of-15 shooting, including seven treys) against McNeese on Nov. 28 and 32 points (on 11-for-17 shooting, including 8-of-9 from beyond the three-point arc) at Tennessee Tech on Feb. 18. Those two performances gave him six all-time 30-plus point games in only 53 games in a Skyhawk uniform – the second-highest total in school history.

Stewart led UT Martin in scoring 11 times and splashed at least four 3-pointers on 10 separate occasions, including four games of at least seven triples. His aforementioned eight trifectas against Tennessee Tech and against Crowley’s Ridge on Dec. 19 were just one make shy of tying the school’s NCAA Division I single-game record. He was a two-time OVC Player of the Week (Dec. 5, Feb. 20) and tallied his 1,000th career collegiate point on Nov. 9 at Youngstown State.

The Union City, Tenn. native also added averages of 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals over 28 games (all starts). Stewart began his season with six consecutive multi-steal games – including a six-swipe effort on Nov. 15 against Harris-Stowe.

Jordan Sears (photo: UTM Sports)

An instant impact player after transferring from Gardner-Webb, Sears terrorized OVC opposition as his team-best 18.2 points-per-game scoring average in league play ranked fourth amongst all players. Overall, he ranked in the top-10 in the conference in points per game (14.7, ninth), free throw percentage (.786, ninth) and field goal percentage (.489, 10th) – becoming only the second guard to appear in the league’s top-10 in the latter statistical category.

Hailing from Daytona Beach, Fla., Sears topped the Skyhawks in scoring a total of 13 times (all in the final 20 games of the season). In fact, all of the speedy 5-11, 175-pound sophomore’s six 20-plus point games came after Jan. 12 – coinciding with UT Martin’s surge towards the top of the league standings. He dialed up a career-best 32 points (on 11-of-19 shooting) in a Jan. 28 overtime win over Southern Indiana and later hung a 30-piece (along with a career-best eight rebounds) on SIUE on Feb. 16. His effort against Southern Indiana earned him the title of OVC Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 30.

Sears additionally guided the Skyhawks in assists (2.8 per game), free throws made (114) and free throws attempted (145) while chipping in averages of 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals over 30 contests (28 starts). His career-high of eight assists came in the OVC road win over Tennessee Tech on Feb. 18 while he shot a season-best 90 percent (9-of-10) on the way to 20 points – in just 26 minutes – five days later against Tennessee State.

KJ Simon (photo: UTM Sports)

An Orlando, Fla. native, Simon was once again a do-it-all workhorse for UT Martin in 2022-23. He ranked third in the OVC in blocked shots (1.1 per contest), seventh in scoring (14.8 points per outing) and eighth in steals (1.4 per game) while averaging 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 29 games. A 6-3, 195-pound guard, he tied for the team lead with three double-doubles – all of which came during an eight-game stretch in OVC play. That span included two of his best all-around games of the season (21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 4-for-4 from three-point range, career-bests of 12 rebounds and five blocks plus three assists and a steal against on Jan. 28 against Southern Indiana; 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 10 rebounds, a career-high six assists and two blocks at Tennessee Tech on Feb. 18).

To further illustrate his all-around worth, Simon is the only NCAA Division I men’s basketball players to boast his average stat line in the points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals column while averaging fewer than two turnovers per game.

Simon also pumped in a season-high 24 points and canned a career-best five treys in the Dec. 29 OVC opener at Little Rock – one of six 20-plus point games for the southpaw. He was responsible for seven multi-block efforts (including equaling a career-high with five swats in a double-double effort against Lindenwood on Jan. 26) and registered 13 multi-steal performances with his career-best five swipes coming in the Jan. 19 road win at Southeast Missouri.

These three will make their OVC Championship Tournament debuts Thursday night at 9:00 as the No. 3 seed Skyhawks will take on the winner of No. 6 SIUE/No. 7 Southern Indiana at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. Airtime is at 8:30 on WCMT.

(UTM Sports Information)