When Tommy Stewart graduated, in 1985, with his business management degree, he was a four-year letterman in basketball, had been named to the NAIA District I First Team, was a Spurlock Outstanding Student-Athlete Award winner, and was a national triple jump champion (1983). With a leap of 50’7”, a Whitworth record that has yet to be broken, he placed second nationally in 1984 and was district champion three times. He ran the third leg of the district’s record-holding 4x100m relay team, which twice finished fourth in national competition. He also earned an NAIA All-America honorable mention and reached 1,000 career points in basketball his senior year.
As a high school senior in Bakersfield, Calif., Stewart was recruited to Whitworth by basketball coach Jim Larson, whom Stewart had first met when Larson coached at Cal State. Stewart turned down offers from big schools to play at Whitworth. “I remember making a recruiting trip to Columbia my senior year in high school,” he recalled in a Spokesman-Review article. “I didn’t like the overall program in basketball. A lot of the guys there weren’t pro-academic. A lot of guys weren’t taking good, strong courses and were more basketball- than academic-oriented.”
Though Stewart spent most of the first two seasons on the bench watching his talent-heavy team play, when he finally took the floor, he played as if he were making up for lost time. In nearly every game, he intercepted passes or stole the ball and broke away with a dramatic slam dunk. By his senior year, he was a solid team leader, both on and off the court.
After Stewart’s senior season, the Seattle Supersonics signed him to a free-agent tryout contract. He went on to play one season of professional ball for Basket Club Perrier, in Nimes, France. He then returned to California, where he has since led a successful business career in upper management in sales. He was named to the Whitworth Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame in 2001.