Thursday, June 16, 2005

Underdogs’ soar during scrimmage


No, they have not yet added tattoos of Underdog, the cartoon superhero, on their arms. But by choice, Rodrick Stewart and Jeremy Case each have taken on the label.

Both sophomores-to-be in terms of their basketball eligibility, the two guards gave the more than 500 campers on hand Wednesday a little taste of the future.

Stewart, a transfer from Southern Cal who will be eligible to suit up following the fall semester, displayed his tremendous athleticism while Case, coming off of a red-shirt season on the Jayhawk bench, showed his newly buffed-up frame and point guard ability. The two helped lead the "Skins" squad to its 61-58 victory in a scrimmage during Kansas University coach Bill Self's camp Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

"I couldn't wait. I feel like I'm the underdog, so every time I step on the floor, I've got something to prove," said Case, who dropped 10 points in the victory.

Having the unassuming role is nothing new for Case, who said he already experienced it as a freshman at both McAlester (Okla.) High School and KU.

The sweet outside shot that Case originally brought to Lawrence was on display Wednesday, but he also drove the lane repeatedly, showing he's no longer going to be pushed around. That, of course, is thanks in large part to a physical frame that is not so whispy anymore.

"The biggest thing I've noticed is the strength," Case said. "I've gotten a lot stronger, and I could put my chest on some people."

While Case has bulked up, Stewart has slimmed down.

Stewart, who showed up last winter after a month at home in Seattle, Wa., weighing 218 pounds, is down to 200.

"Coach Self said I'd better get in shape, and I did," Stewart said. "I'm more explosive. If I get the ball down low, I'm going to try and dunk it."

The 6-foot-4 Stewart showed that Wednesday, at one point grabbing an offensive rebound, jumping off of two feet, cocking the ball back and throwing it home with one hand. He also showed plenty of quickness when it came of slashing to the basket.

Though they play very different games in terms of style, one thing both Case and Stewart said they valued in their time observing from the bench was getting an opportunity for the first time in their careers to just be spectators.

"You get to learn a lot just watching great players," Stewart said. "And I did that for a whole semester."


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