MONROE, La. — Men’s basketball star Ryan Stuart will be inducted into the ULM L Club’s Hall of Fame on Nov. 5, 2016.
Born in the Bahamas, Stuart was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year and the Southland Tournament MVP in both his seasons at the former Northeast Louisiana University.
Stuart scored 1,238 points in two seasons and helped lead the team to NCAA Tournament appearances in 1992 and 1993.
Stuart’s career scoring average of 21.3 ppg ranks third behind Calvin Natt and Glynn Saulters. Stuart ranks 19th on ULM's scoring list, second in career field-goal percentage (.580) and 19th in career rebounds (531). Stuart averaged 21.6 points per game and 57.0 percent from the field in 1992 and followed it up by averaging 21.1 points per game and shooting 59.1 percent from the field in 1993.
Heading into the induction ceremony, Stuart talked with L Club media relations director Paul Letlow about his path to ULM, his career and what it means to be honored by the university.
L Club: Since learning of your upcoming induction into the ULM L Club’s Hall of Fame, what have been some of your reflections from those playing days?
Stuart: I’ve been fortunate in that when I came over here from the Bahamas, I was privileged to meet a lot of great people. I went to Lon Morris Junior College for two years and was recruited by Northeast by Tom Schuberth and Mike Vining. One of the most important and significant choices I ever made in my whole college career was going to Northeast. It was there that I found my identity in basketball. We played two years in a row in the NCAA Tournament, which was a milestone. I had a lot of honors at Northeast. It was an experience that you just can’t replace. Having coaches like Coach Vining, Schuberth and Keith Richard and that staff was a wonderful, wonderful experience.
L Club: You actually quit your high school team and weren’t a prominent player in high school, right?
Stuart: I was on a team one year and just was never big enough or good enough to play. After graduation from high school, my interest in basketball picked up. I started playing basketball on the outdoor courts around Freeport in the Bahamas. I remember vividly at one point there was a coach from Texas, Dale Dotson from Lon Morris College, who was over there recruiting some other guys. I just happened to be out there playing around with those guys. He cornered me and asked me if I’d be interested in playing basketball in the U.S. at Lon Morris. Of course being a young kid in the Bahamas, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. My intention was to work for my dad in his business and live one day at a time. But Coach Dotson gave me the chance to play at Lon Morris, I played there two years. Then I was recruited by Northeast to play at the university level.
L Club: At 6-4, you were the prototypical, high-flying athlete that Vining favored as a coach. What was your most memorable dunk during a game?
Stuart: My most memorable dunk came against North Texas. I had like 33 points. I remember coming around from the right side of the zone and going underneath the basket, coming out the other side and dunking it. I remember thinking at the time that it wasn’t even possible to do that. There were several of them but that one sticks in my mind because it seemed like an impossible thing to do.
L Club: What do you remember about your experience playing in the NCAA Tournament?
Stuart: One was against Iowa when they had Acie Earl. Anytime a team gets a berth, that’s a big accomplishment. We were fortunate enough to do that two years in a row. All the hype and publicity behind it was a very special experience for me, one I’ll never forget. The game against Iowa, we held our own in the first half. Being a small team playing teams from a bigger conference, you tend to hang on and stay in there close for a quarter or a half. After that, those guys wear you down. That was our problem. We didn’t have the guys to match up with their size. But even so, we held our own and had a good run at it.
L Club: You produced amazing numbers during your two years in Monroe and your career scoring average of 21.3 ppg ranks third behind Calvin Natt and Glynn Saulters. What was the secret to your success?
Stuart: Guys like (former point guard) Keith Johnson always put me in a position to score. Honestly, I can’t take credit by myself. Those guys were so good and able to create the situations for me to score most of the time. I appreciate them to this day. I’ve seen Keith on a few occasions over the years and we always talk about it. Those guys helped me shine like I did. We had a really awesome supporting cast, guys like Keith, Isaac Brown, Louis Davis and Rodney Redmond. We had an amazing team and an amazing run. Coach Vining was a coach who knew our weaknesses and strengths. He gave us the chance to exploit the other team’s weakness.
L Club: How did Coach Vining work to accommodate your religious beliefs?
Stuart: On Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, I observe the weekly Sabbath. Obviously there were some conflicts at that time. We had a few situations where we had to appeal to a committee to have games changed around and it worked in our favor. For the most part my whole collegiate career, it worked out pretty good. But we had a couple of tournaments that I wasn’t able to perform because of my religious convictions. But it wasn’t really an issue. I remember the first time I went to Coach Vining and told him that I have a religious conviction and wanted to talk to him about it. He told me straight up, you do whatever is in your heart. You are part of the team. Man, I was so appreciative of that. He was so open and straight forward that it really helped me as a team member to want to go that much harder. It made a big impression on me.
L Club: What is your lasting impression of Coach Vining?
Stuart: I’m one of those guys who is a pretty good judge of character. He’s one of those guys who has your best interest in mind. I don’t mean playing basketball. He’s got your best interest in mind, whatever that may be. When I was first married, Coach offered so much advice and communication. You could talk to him about anything and he’s always been there for me. I can’t imagine playing at that level without a coach like Vining. I got to know his wife and kids and developed a wonderful friendship. In my time in this country playing basketball, he’s one of the icons who inspired me to go hard in whatever I do.
L Club: What have you done since college?
Stuart: I did go overseas and played basketball for a little bit. With a wife and kid, we came back to the U.S. and settled in. I always had a background in the technical industry, electrical engineering and stuff. In 1995, I went to work for Neiman Marcus, for a company that installs all of the conveyor systems and the controls for the conveyor systems in an 850,000 square foot facility. I’ve been there ever since. They hired me on the engineering staff to maintain the conveyors and equipment they installed. I’ve been there and making sure things run right for 22 years. I’ve also built a side business where I do some construction, new constructions and remodeling, since I came back to East Texas. I feel very blessed. Lon Morris, Northeast, all these circumstances have molded me into the individual I am now.
(Press release courtesy of Paul Letlow)