Vidalia’s Stewart signs to play for Northwestern State

Published 3:38 am Thursday, April 15, 2010

VIDALIA — From here on out, it looks to be smooth sailing for Vidalia High School senior guard Gary Stewart.

With his college decision finally out of the way, Stewart can now be worry-free as he wraps up his final month of high school.

On Tuesday, Stewart signed a letter of intent to Northwestern State University to continue his basketball career. Stewart said he was at peace with the decision, and looks forward to attending a school with an atmosphere similar to Vidalia’s.

“It feels really good finally getting (this decision) off my shoulders, and not having anything else to worry about.” Stewart said.

“I felt really comfortable with the coaches and players when I went down there. It was like I was going to another Vidalia — everything was really cool. The campus is pretty big, but not too big to where I’d get lost. I also know some people that go down there, and that made me feel right at home.”

Demons head coach Mike McConathy said through a press release that building a relationship with Stewart’s family was a wonderful opportunity for him and his staff.

“He has a great family unit to support him and help his development continue,” McConathy said. “We are also excited to get another student-athlete that has been a part of a great high school program with such solid coaching. The foundation that they have helped lay will ultimately give him a jump start on his college career.”

Stewart said reassuring his parents that he would be taken care of helped put his mother’s mind at ease.

“Every time they used to call, they’d always ask to speak to my parents,” Stewart said. “Sometimes they’d talk to my dad before me, and they always got permission to talk to me.

“That made them feel really comfortable. I know my dad wasn’t too worried, but my mom was a little scared, and they let them know they’d protect me, so my parents would have nothing to worry about.”

Stewart’s mother, Sharon Stewart, said the family atmosphere McConathy has created was the biggest reassurance for her.

“They seem like they’re family people,” Sharon Stewart said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, they’re going to take care of you. I feel comfortable with them. I think they’ll take good care of Gary.”

Stewart’s father, Gary Stewart Sr., said this was a very proud moment for him, but he wasn’t surprised his son ended up being able to continue his basketball career beyond high school.

“When he first started at age 5, he played with kids much older than himself,” Stewart Sr. said. “That’s what made him develop his skills. We also took him to basketball camps, which helped him develop even further.”

Vidalia basketball coach Robert Sanders said he knew Stewart was good enough to play in college when he first started coaching Stewart.

“I saw him during the summer after his eighth grade year,” Sanders said. “We took him to our team camp, and we typically don’t do that with many incoming freshman. We saw something special in him.”

McConathy said in the press release that Stewart’s team-first attitude was a big factor in the school wanting to recruit him.

“He is very unselfish with the ball and keeps his team involved,” McConathy said. “We love the way he can score in several different ways.”

Sanders said Stewart’s on-the-court flexibility would allow him to excel at Northwestern State.

“They’re getting a guy who can play several different position, who’s a ball hander and has great court vision,” Sanders said. “Every coach loves a player that’s passionate about the game, and Gary’s a player like that. He’ll devote a lot of time to improving his game.”