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Vidalia’s Stewart to sign with Northwestern St. today

VIDALIA — Gary Stewart has accomplished a lot during his Vidalia basketball career.

The senior guard has been named the 2009 LHSAA Class 3A Player of the Year, the 2010 Class 3A Top 28 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, been nominated for the McDonald’s All-American Team and helped his team win its first state championship in 31 years.

And this morning, Stewart will get the final and perhaps greatest reward — he will sign a scholarship to play Division I basketball.

Stewart will be signing with Northwestern State University at 10 a.m. today in the Vidalia High School Library, putting an exclamation point on his high school career.

Today is the first day of the regular college basketball signing period, which goes through May 19.

But Stewart is wasting no time in making his college choice and locking himself into playing for the Demons.

“It feels like a burden off my shoulders,” Stewart said. “I’m going ahead and signing so I don’t have to worry about other schools calling me and stuff.”

Northwestern State is coming off a tough 2010 season, in which the team suffered through a 10-19 overall record and 5-10 record in the Southland Conference.

However, Northwestern State does have recent NCAA tournament success, having stunned No. 3 seed Iowa with a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the first round of the 2006 tournament.

“Northwestern State is just a real comfortable atmosphere,” Stewart said. “I really like the coaches and met some of the players. I feel like I’m going to another Vidalia.”

Another factor in Stewart choosing Northwestern State is the proximity of its Natchitoches, La., campus to Vidalia.

“That was a big factor,” Stewart said. “I didn’t really want to be too far from home, and I’m just two hours away.”

Stewart averaged 17 points, 10 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game this past season for the Vikings in helping lead them to a state championship.

And today’s signing is a reward for the hard work he has put into improving his game all these years.

“I worked hard for four years and it’s paid off with a full scholarship,” Stewart said. “It feels good to get recognized for that.”

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