Stewart Erhart named Gatorade Player of the Year

Erhart earns honor for second consecutive season
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 8:37 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It’s no secret that Stewart Erhart is the leader of West Valley Wolfpack boys basketball. As a junior, Erhart was named the Gatorade Player of the Year (GPOTY) for boys basketball in Alaska. As a senior, Erhart was named the GPOTY for the 2022-23 on March 15.

“It feels good to win it twice,” stated Erhart. “I know how hard I’ve worked and how much I’ve sacrificed. I’ve given up summers. Waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. before school, getting shots in before school starts, and working out after school.”

“Stew’s an absolute animal on the basketball floor,” added Wolfpack head coach, Colten Growden. “He puts in so much time in the offseason. He’s a great leader on and off the court. He’s been pretty much the face of our program the last two years. It all comes back to how much time he really puts into his own craft.”

The GPOTY award recognizes both on-court skills and statistics as well as off-court academics and leadership. Erhart averaged 21.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 steals, and 4.0 assists in West Valley’s 23 regular season games. Erhart scored 23 points in the Wolfpack’s 4A MAC Championship game against Monroe Catholic.

“I’m providing control of the game, control of my team, our offense, and putting the pressure on defensively. Being a leader of my team, you have to set an example. If I give it my best, they’ll give it their best,” said Erhart on his on-court skill set.

Not only does Stewart have the athletic skill set to provide stats for his team every night, he also has leadership skills that pick his teammates up. “When I came here as a freshman, I looked at the seniors for approval. That’s what I’ve tried to do this year with my teammates that are younger than me... I talk confidence into my teammates and try to make them better,” mentioned Erhart.

Stewart Erhart became the first boys basketball player to win GPOY from West Valley. Erhart is only the second boys basketball player to garner the honor (Monroe’s Scooter Bynum in 2013-14). In the 38th year of this award, Erhart is now the fifth Alaskan to win the boys basketball GPOTY award twice (Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers, and Kamaka Hepa).

“No, there was no pressure,” claimed Erhart on winning back-to-back awards. “I already knew I wanted to come in, and give everything I got. I was playing every game like it was my last one of my senior year. So, I had to go crazy.”

“The thing I think Stew’s gone through is body change,” claimed Growden on Erhart’s growth from a junior to senior. “He physically has put on more size and weight to help his game and allowing him to get to the basket better... He’s worked on perfecting his outside game and that’s translated to him being a three-level scorer.”

Stewart Erhart was crucial in West Valley’s number one seed in the ASAA 4A State Basketball Tournament. There are three games left in Erhart’s high school career, but his basketball career will not end when he graduates. It is still unknown where Erhart will take his talents in the fall.

“The biggest thing about Stew is his motor,” complimented Growden on Erhart’s skills. “He just goes, goes, goes, and that’s really going to help him get on the floor early -- hopefully his freshman year wherever he gets to. Also his defensive ability, he plays both ends. He plays 94 feet. He can pressure the ball. He can sag. He can defend the post. He’s just a pure, overall defender that can defend three different positions at a time.”

“I don’t know exactly what’s next, but I’ll commit to a college after state, but I don’t know what college I want to go to. I don’t know yet,” ended Erhart.

The top-seeded West Valley Wolfpack open the tournament facing the eighth-seeded Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, Wednesday, March 22 at 11:00 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. The Wolfpack beat the Crimson Bears twice this season both by 20 points.