Darst. You hear that name announced often over the speakers from the voice of Jesuit basketball, Mr. Andrew Lusher.
Fresh off a 25-6 season which ended in Lakeland at the Class 5A state semifinals against Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 55-54, rising senior guard Stevie Darst had a career year averaging 15.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and 36 percent from beyond the arc. After averaging 8.5 points per game as a sophomore, Darst really came into his own as the leader alongside senior guard D.J Snyder.
His big year helped him generate buzz around the Tampa area and outside of it as he looks to further improve his game in his final prep season. Darst’s game-saving performance against Cape Coral Mariner in the Region-3 Final was cold blooded. He made 8-of-8 free throws in the final quarter as he recorded 11 of his team-high 13 points over the final eight minutes giving Jesuit the 41-38 win.
Darst has earned interest from five different schools: The Citadel, Cornell, Boston University, American and Navy. He’s a kid who is not only intelligent in the classroom, but on the court as well dishing out crafty passes and knocking down triples.
The 6’3″, 175-pounder added double digits in all but five games this past season including 10 games with 20 plus points. In the final two games before the district tournament started, Darst added 28 and 22 points respectively against Berkely Prep and Tampa Catholic, shooting 50 percent in both.
Darst says playing at Jesuit has helped him transform his game in a big way.
“I’ve always been a very confident player, but I used to have a pass first mentality because I played point guard growing up. At Jesuit, I developed a scorer’s mentality that I needed because I had to play off the ball.”
That scorer’s mentality is working to Jesuit’s advantage as the Tigers did everything they could and more to earn a trip back to the state tournament for the first time since they won it all in 2013.
“It was a great run especially because we were underdogs the whole year and kind of surprised people. I hope the experience we gained from going to Lakeland will help us get there again and hopefully bring home a state championship.”
Darst is fortunate to play for a head coach like Neal Goldman, a guy that he calls a “really a great coach.” Goldman is set to be the man in charge for a 30th season and alongside assistant coaches Joe and Paul Sansonetti the Tigers have a scrappy mentality that helps them hang around in just about every game. Under Goldman’s watch, Jesuit has captured five straight district crowns.
“Every practice he pushes us and makes us better players. We do a lot of shooting and finishing drills in practice especially later on in the season when we need to be at our best.”
Many different players stepped up for Jesuit during the postseason, including departing seniors Lee Green and Ryan Fleming and rising seniors Tyson Dunn and Will Anderson. Having players who shined in the big moments really helped Darst, Snyder and this offense make the most of their opportunities.
“D.J. [Snyder] was the catalyst for our team this year because he always gave 100 percent. He was a great leader. Next year we have three starting spots open. I think we have some returners and JV players who will make a big difference and help us a lot.”
Luckily for Goldman, Darst will be returning with three core guys in Anderson, Dunn and rising junior guard Thierry Moliere. All three are expected to take on larger roles with Snyder, Green, Fleming and role player Mike Sierra graduating.
Also, rising junior guard Nick Weir will see plenty of minutes. His older brother JJ plays at Divison-II Rhodes College alongside former Jesuit teammate Daniel Darst, one of Stevie’s older brothers.
Stevie Darst says his older brothers Daniel and Andrew are his biggest influences in his life. Daniel is in his first year at Rhodes College while Andrew, the oldest played at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
“They both push me and make me strive to be better than them because they both had very successful high school careers and I want to be better.”
Right now, Darst is working on further improving his ball handling skills. He wants to get stronger and more athletic.
With key starters departing and Darst taking on an even bigger role in his senior season, he isn’t worried at all about teams keying in on him. This what he had to say when I asked him about facing double teams.
“Our system really encourages teams to double team a certain player. Our continuity offensive sets will create open looks for the other four players with the whole defense paying attention to one player.”
Darst is as humble as they come. He has a high basketball IQ, can knock down shots whether he’s open or not and most importantly is a true team player.
With another solid season on the horizon, Darst should earn many more offers from college programs. He’s a fun player to watch.
Favorite NBA player? – Steph Curry. “I try to mimic his shooting and playmaking ability.”
Favorite TV Show and why? – House of Cards. “Great storyline.”
Favorite Movie and why? – Space Jam. “It’s a classic.”
Go-to song before games – Blank Spaces
Game film: Darst’s Hudl tape
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.