After a solid but unspectacular freshman season at Wake Forest, Ari Stewart returns for his sophomore year poised to build on the contributions he made last season. Benefitting from the savvy passing of Ish Smith and the attention paid to Al-Farouq Aminu, Stewart will be asked to assume a bigger role this season for a young Wake team looking to define itself under new Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Standing 6'7 with long arms, Stewart has prototypical size for a NBA small forward. Though he needs to continue adding muscle to his frame, he proves to be a smooth athlete with good leaping ability. He shows some quickness, but isn't able to exploit it due to his lack of dynamic ball-handling ability on the offensive end. Over the long-term, Stewart needs to continue working in the weight room and improving his skill set so he can maximize his frame and his ability to use his physical tools.
Though Stewart is a very capable athlete, he relied heavily on his jump shot as a freshman. Shooting the ball with excellent touch and smooth mechanics, Stewart's efficiency was limited by his inability to create space with his dribble and shot selection. According to Synergy Sports Technology, jump shots accounted for more the 75% of Stewart's total shots while three pointers accounted for more than half of his total attempts. He connected on an exceptional 43.2% of his spot up jumpers despite taking quite a few tough shots, but shot just 34% off the dribble.
A highly aggressive scorer in limited minutes ranking amongst the leaders in our database in field goal attempts per-possession, Stewart has some room to grow and improve his efficiency as a perimeter. His biggest weakness is his ball-handling ability. He simply doesn't look comfortable putting the ball on the floor to create for himself or his teammates, making him a somewhat one-dimensional player when he receives the ball on the wing. Moving forward, his ability to become more comfortable attacking off the bounce will dictate how good of a scorer he can become on the college level.
Around the rim, Stewart shows the athleticism to play well above the rim, but struggles to finish through contact and often loses control of the ball as he attempts to operate to the rim. Shooting a mediocre 48.6% around the basket, Stewart will need to continue working on his frame and ball-handling to reach the point where he can effectively exploit his very solid leaping ability,
Defensively, Stewart shows good potential, but lacks polish. While he doesn't have great fundamentals and is over-aggressive at times, he has the lateral quickness to contain penetration and could become a very solid on-ball defender as he becomes more disciplined. Last season, he often took bad angles when recovering to the ball and lacked of physical strength to keep stronger ball-handlers away from the rim, two things he'll need to work on moving forward.
Though Stewart had a solid freshman year, he still has a lot of improving to do. One of the top returning scorers on a very young Wake Forrest roster, he'll have every opportunity to showcase his development this season. It may be too early to render too many conclusions on the young wing as his role will no doubt change this season, but if improves his ball-handling ability there is little doubt that he'll emerge as a highly intriguing prospect.