Hartford native Kazell Stewart flying high into Greater Hartford Pro-Am championship series

Hartford native Kazell Stewart flying high into Greater Hartford Pro-Am championship series

WEST HARTFORD — As the clock ran down, the semifinal matchup between Endow Hartford 21 and Vargas Chapman Woods neared its end.

Despite the defending champ’s run that cut VCW’s lead to under 10 points with a few minutes remaining, the game was decided in the first quarter. VCW had led by more than 20 points for most of the game. 

It was over. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t still time for theatrics. A VCW guard caught the rebound from an Endow Hartford 21 miss and launched it to his teammate Kazell Stewart waiting by his lonesome under the basket. Stewart caught the ball, took one dribble and went up for a windmill dunk. 

The crowd went berserk

“That was the exclamation mark right there!” Greater Hartford Pro-Am founder Peter Higgins said from the stands. 

The best-of-three championship series between Favor Inc. and VCW that tips off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13 at University of Saint Joseph's James A. Calhoun gymnasium in West Hartford is sure to be filled with many more monstrous dunks, unbelievable shotmaking, head-turning moves and three of the Pro-Am’s Five Players to Watch. But fans certainly don’t want to miss Stewart, said Anthony Price, Greater Hartford Pro-Am commissioner. 

“He’s the kind of player that people come to see because his athletic ability is off the charts,” Price said. “He plays above the rim and people love to see that. He can play multiple positions. He can guard. He can play small forward or center and he gets on the boards. He plays bigger than he is. He’s playing like he’s 6-8 when he’s really only about 6-5.

Stewart’s big play has helped VCW reach the championship series, vindicating its loss to Endow Hartford 21 in their semifinal tilt last summer. Players were happy to get the victory Wednesday night.

“It’s unfinished business,” Stewart said of playing in the finals. 

It’s Stewart’s fourth summer playing in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am. The Prince Tech graduate and Southern Connecticut University sophomore started playing when he was a junior in high school. Stewart, an East Hartford native, heard about the Pro-Am from his coaches.

“I talked to P [Higgins], ended up playing one time and I fell in love,” Stewart said. 

He’s also heard about professional players like Andre Drummond and Tremont Waters playing in the Pro-Am, ensuring his participation. He knew about his teammate Mike Anderson, a Hartford native who played in the NBA G-League and for University of Washington. 

Now, like Anderson, he’s become a staple of the Pro-Am and a walking highlight reel fans want to see. VCW coach Donald Herring Jr. noted Stewart’s blocking ability despite his size, and how great it's been for the team that doesn’t have a big man. 

“Guys like Kazell  —  6-4, 6-5, athletic, long arms, can jump — those are our shot blockers,” Herring Jr. said. 

VCW won’t change its strategy for the championship game, Herring Jr. added, meaning Stewart will be his windmilling, rim protecting self in the final. 

“It’s an entertainment product at the end of the day,” Price said. “People want to see the dunks, the blocks, the ankles broken. They want to see those crossover moves. It’s great that he’s [Stewart] around and I’m glad that we have him here.” 

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