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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Stewart puts past behind him

Former USC guard motivated by last season

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Rodrick Stewart, who transferred from USC to Kansas University in January of 2005, wasn't eligible to play in a game until the start of second semester last season.

It put the 6-foot-4 guard at a disadvantage in his quest for playing time, several other perimeter players getting an eight-game head start on the season.

"Yes and no," Stewart said, asked if he was at a disadvantage because he couldn't dress until the Dec. 19 contest against Pepperdine.

"It could have gone either way. I really don't want to talk about last year. Last year was last year. I'm trying to move ahead to better things this year. I use last year as motivation for this year," Stewart added.

Stewart wound up playing just 44 minutes in 13 games. He hit four of 10 shots total, missing his only two three-point tries.

"It was tough," he said of being ineligible as the Jayhawks opened the season with a 4-4 record. "But you can learn a lot from sitting and watching, too. I got to look at it from the outside looking in, making sure I knew all the plays. It was difficult, but helped me, too."

Stewart didn't brood about lack of playing time, instead went to work on his game over the summer.

The knock on him has been his outside shot, so he put up shots, a lot of shots, during summer school sessions in Lawrence as well as a trip back to his hometown of Seattle.

"I can shoot the outside shot," he said. "My senior year of high school, I never had to shoot outside, I'd attack the hoop. I'm still good at attacking the hoop, but coming into college, even my high school coach said, 'You need to work on your shot.' I did that every day in the summer. I still do, now. Even if I get in the gym 20 minutes before class, I have to shoot every day."

He also has worked on other aspects of his game.

"Making better decisions when I am on the court," Stewart said. "Trying to bring my game to a whole different level."

Stewart realizes plenty of talented perimeter players are on the roster again this season, meaning it'll be a battle to earn minutes.

"For me," he said, "I am starting out with the team from Day One. I'll be there every day working hard, trying to get better. Whatever coach (Bill) Self needs me to do on the court, I will do."

Stewart says he trusts KU's head coach.

"I'd say if we listen to what coach Self has to say we'll be very successful," Stewart said. "If he feels I can help the team in games it'll be what I'll do, whatever he wants."

He said no matter what his role, he was happy and would not be making another move.

"I am definitely committed to KU," he said. "I love it here. It reminds me of Mississippi (where he was born and lived several years before moving to Seattle). It's real laid back here, country but not too country, best of both worlds."

- Assistant sports editor Gary Bedore can be reached at 832-7186.

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