It wasn’t supposed to go down like this, he was one of the much ballyhooed twins. He was part of an identical duo from Seattle that was supposed to change Southern Cal basketball forever. However, it didn’t quite work out that way for high flying Rodrick Stewart after he and his twin brother Lodrick agreed to attend USC following a wildly successful run at Seattle’s famed Rainier Beach that included a pair of state championships and a spot for each on the Parade All-American team.
It started out well enough as both twins earned starting spots in USC coach Henry Bibby’s backcourt, but while Lodrick flourished and led the team in scoring, Rodrick struggled. After shooting poorly from the field and averaging just 4.4 points per game during his freshman season, he was ruled academically ineligible during the first semester of his sophomore year and decided it was time for a change.
Last winter, Rodrick Stewart made the tough decision to leave his brother -- with whom he had shared a backcourt with for as long as he could remember -- and strike out on his own. His heart led him to Kansas where he could turn to his former high school teammate, sophomore big man C.J. Giles, and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend a person Stewart had known since the seventh grade.
While he’s looking forward to several things once he becomes eligible to play during the second semester, what the sophomore guard is looking forward to most is establishing his own identity.
“In the past, a lot of people just called me twin, they didn’t even take the time to figure out whether I’m Lodrick or Rodrick,” Stewart told Jayhawk Illustrated. “It’s always been the Stewart twins, I just want to establish it as Rodrick Stewart and see what Rodrick Stewart can do to help Kansas be better.”
During high school and early in college, Stewart admits that he didn’t always take the game as seriously as he should have. He felt he could rely on his charm to take care of any problems with coaches and that his incredible athleticism would allow him to take over games. After taking some time off, he’s learned that he has to be much more cognizant of the game itself and that he can’t simply rely on being more athletic than his opponents.
“It’s just about learning how to slow down,” says Stewart. “In high school you are playing at the top speed all the time because you can. In college you have to learn to understand the game and know that you’ve got to go from slow to fast and understand the game a lot better. I think I’m doing that now.”
Maybe most importantly, Stewart’s early setbacks as a collegian have taught him that he can’t take everything for granted. All it took to teach him that was being forced to sit out for academics and a transfer.
“It kind of changes the way I approach the game. I used to approach it playing around and joking around all the time,” says Stewart of his pre-transfer approach to the game. “When it’s time to go now, it’s all business. I’m not going to take anything for granted because I’ve been away from basketball for a year. It has made me love the game that much more. When I get out there, I’m going to make the best of every second I’m out there.”
From the sounds of it, the six-foot-four inch guard will do whatever it takes to get on the floor and earn minutes in Bill Self’s talented, but young, rotation. He’s played the point and both wing positions in the past and is a slashing scorer capable of defending several positions. He’s also a terrific offensive rebounder and knows that ability can help earn him some minutes.
“Coach Self stresses that I should use my quickness and strength to get on the glass,” said Stewart. “I think I can be one of the top rebounders and defenders on the team and that should earn me minutes. The rest of my game should come right along if I rebound and play defense.”
Having experienced life under two different coaching staffs, and having played with several different players, Stewart really enjoys his current teammates. True, the affable and outgoing Stewart gets along with pretty much anyone he comes into contact with, but the bond he shares with his current teammates goes further.
“We always joke around,” said Stewart of his teammates. “They all like to say I have a big head or whatever, or I crack on Brandon’s arm or Julian because he’s too hairy. Somebody has always got jokes. We all like to have fun and play games with each other. I look at all of them like they’re family, like they’re all my brothers.”
Now that his long wait to play is almost over, Stewart says he is more excited than ever to play basketball. Even though things haven’t gone as he and his brother had originally planned, he’s confident that he’ll find his game and identity in Kansas and achieve the kind of success he’s always hoped for.
Maybe the success won’t come alongside his twin brother Lodrick, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
“I actually think it is going to help me playing without my brother and it will help him to play without me,” says Rodrick of life post-Lodrick. “In him you’ve got a person that you’ve been with since day one so you are worrying about him at the same time as you are yourself.
“It makes it harder for you as an individual to worry about your own situation and it makes it harder on both of you. So in a way I think it will help me because I can focus on just myself and my new team and teammates, and I hope it does the same for him.”
Editors note: This is a preview of an article coming in a future edition of Jayhawk Illustrated magazine, available as an annual subscription, part of our Total Access Plus package, and on selected newsstands.