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Stewart settles in on coaching staff

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East Carolina point guard Celeste Stewart powers her way to the basket during a game against UCF in Minges Coliseum on Feb. 3, 2013.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, June 25, 2018

Celeste Stewart already has had a breakthrough moment during her first few weeks as an assistant coach on the East Carolina women’s basketball staff.

The Pirate point guard from 2009-13 was working with current point guard, senior Alex Frazier, during an offseason workout when reality sunk in for Stewart that she is coaching at her alma mater.

“I was thinking that the last time I was on a court here was when I was a player, so just being on that other side was a cool experience,” said Stewart, who came to ECU after getting her first experience in coaching at Wingate. “That’s definitely one of the best moments, for sure, just getting out on the floor with the players and getting to know them.”

Ninth-year coach Heather Macy also noticed the interaction as she was overseeing the workout from the other end of the court.

“There was that wow moment of you’ve coached one point guard and turn around and she is training the other one, so that was really incredible,” said Macy, who coached Stewart for three of her four seasons at ECU. “Alex was really listening and soaking up every single word that Celeste said.”

After completing her Pirate career and leaving Greenville with a degree in recreational therapy, Stewart started working as an activities assistant at a nursing home. She enjoyed the job, but also felt a void in her life without basketball.

“It was like something was just missing,” she said.

Former ECU assistant Ann Hancock is the head coach at Wingate and that connection helped get Stewart to Wingate to complete a master’s degree there and work as a graduate assistant coach for Hancock. She was elevated to a full-time assistant for her final two seasons before an opening came up with Macy and the Pirates.

Wingate is a Division II school, so this is Stewart’s initial job with a Division I team. Macy and the Pirates are optimistic after a solid season a year ago and with a plethora of talented sophomores and juniors on the roster.

“She is ready and prepared for this challenge,” Macy said of Stewart. “There is an adjustment, as there is with everything, but she is a Pirate and loves Greenville. ... The on-court stuff should be no adjustment, but the only adjustment is on the recruiting trail and she’s already turning that corner really fast because she is a relationship builder.”

The team’s other new assistant coach is Chad Killinger, who spent the last seven seasons as head coach at Moberly (Mo.) Area Community College. Hayley Hollis was previously a video coordinator and assistant coach with the Pirates, but this year has moved to director of basketball operations.

Former Pirate assistant Darren Guensch is now at Bucknell.

Joining Stewart and Killinger as an assistant coach is Nicole Mealing, who has been with the Pirates since 2012.

“It is something that was hard to pass up,” Stewart said of returning to ECU. “I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to coach where I played. To be able to do that has always really been my dream, even though initially I didn’t even think I would get into coaching.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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