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Stewart helping students with studies

VIDALIA — Gary Stewart may be out of school this week, but he’s spending his spring break inside the schools of his hometown in order to give the children a pep talk.

The Northwestern State guard and former Vidalia High School standout was in Vidalia Lower Elementary Tuesday and Ridgecrest Elementary Wednesday encouraging students about their Louisiana Educational Assessment Program testing, which began Thursday.

“I saw some of the kids and my older teachers (at Vidalia Lower Elementary),” Stewart said. “My mom told me Monday to come talk to them about testing.”

Stewart said his message to students is to make sure they stay on top of their schoolwork above everything else, even sports.

“I let them know about how grades are the most important thing,” Stewart said. “You have to be focused. A lot of them want to play sports, but you can’t do that if you don’t have the grades.”

Stewart recently concluded his sophomore season with the Demons, averaging 5.1 points per game, 2.1 rebounds per game and one assist per game while playing roughly 16.5 minutes per game. The team went 16-16 on the season, and Stewart said it was an up-and-down year for the team.

“We had a couple of troublesome players, and one of them got kicked off the team in the middle of the season,” Stewart said. “After that, things sort of smoothed out.”

Stewart said the team went 6-6 in conference play, starting out hot but going cold during the stretch run, losing seven out of the last nine games of the season.

“I don’t know what happened,” Stewart said. “I think some of the older players tried to take over, because it was conference play, and they may have tried to do different things they really couldn’t do instead of playing together.”

Coming from a state championship team at Vidalia with a team that had good chemistry, Stewart said it was hard for him seeing teammates struggling to form cohesiveness as a unit.

“Me and those guys had played with each other our whole lives, so there were no problems because of that,” Stewart said. “We didn’t argue about who was going to be the person to take over a game.”

Stewart contrasted that with what he experience this season at Northwestern State.

“Going through the adversity and seeing all of the chemistry issues, it was really rough,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he keeps in touch with many of his former teammates regularly, and every now and then he’ll see Torrey Dixon when they’re both home on break. Stewart said despite Dixon’s heart attack in April 2011, Stewart doesn’t notice a difference in Dixon physically.

“He told me he’s doing well,” Stewart said. “I know they didn’t let him play this season, but it hasn’t affected him mentally or physically, in my opinion. He’s hoping to play again next season.”