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One more reunion for Stewart twins

USC's Lodrick, Kansas' Rodrick will face each other for the first time in an organized game.

December 04, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

LAWRENCE, KAN. — Twins, they talk about the darndest things.

Rodrick Stewart, for instance, will call identical twin Lodrick to tell him that he's about to go to class at Kansas. Lodrick will report that he's doing nothing more than lying down at home and is preparing to see a tutor at USC.

A short while later, one of the twins will invariably call the other to say that he's going to basketball practice.

"We'll call each other back and forth like that the whole day," Lodrick said. "Just little stuff."

Lodrick was born four minutes before Rodrick, and it seems as if the twins haven't gone that long between conversations since.

Good thing their father sprung for a cellphone plan that covers the roughly 2,000 minutes of talk time and 4,000 text messages exchanged each month.

For more than 20 years, communications between the brothers involved little more than a slight swivel of the head. The boys were inseparable from birth to the beginning of their sophomore years at USC, where they were roommates and identical dressers.

"We had every class, every tutor together. Everything," Lodrick said. "Our plan was to stay together as long as we could -- college, whatever happened afterward."

That plan abruptly changed in November 2004 when Rodrick announced he was transferring because of a variety of reasons, including repeated run-ins with then-coach Henry Bibby. Lodrick also signed his release papers, and the twins' teammates figured they were both gone.

"I didn't think I'd ever see them separate," Trojans junior guard Gabe Pruitt said. "If one of them was leaving, I would have thought the other one would go with him."

But the twins surprised everyone -- including their family -- by saying they would split up. They reached the decision after doing what they do best: They talked.

"When I left, my brother was kind of thinking he should stay," Rodrick said. "He was like, 'Do you think I should come with you?' He didn't ever really want to leave.

"I just wanted a chance to give it a go on my own and have a chance to be me. We would have to go our separate ways at some point, so better then than later."

It's been such an amicable split that the brothers can't wait to be reunited tonight when USC (5-1) plays fifth-ranked Kansas (6-2) at Allen Fieldhouse in a game televised by ESPN2.

About 20 friends and family members are expected to be in attendance, including Bull Stewart, the father who will wear a T-shirt featuring one twin's likeness on each side. The father said he planned to sit with Jayhawks fans for one half and Trojans fans for the other to avoid the appearance of playing favorites.

Rodrick will merely hope for playing time. The 6-foot-4 junior guard is the fifth man off the bench on a deep and talented Jayhawks team, averaging 1.6 points and 7.7 minutes. He did not play during Kansas' 64-57 loss to DePaul on Saturday.

Lodrick, by comparison, has become the Pacific 10 Conference's active leading scorer and the Trojans' top three-point shooter. The senior guard is averaging 14.7 points and has started all six games.

The differences in the twins' games are as pronounced as the differences in their personalities. Loquacious Lodrick is primarily an outside shooter, more reserved Rodrick is an aggressive slasher who constantly drives toward the basket. Lodrick is left-handed and Rodrick right-handed, though their father said that wasn't by design.

Bull Stewart, who also has a set of 13-year-old fraternal twins -- Hikeem and Kadeem -- said other distinctions have emerged between his identical twins over the last two years. Rodrick has become more laid-back and his voice has taken on more of a Midwestern twang since he moved to Lawrence, Bull Stewart said.

There's also been plenty of separation anxiety, especially when Rodrick had to sit out a year before becoming eligible.

"It was real hard on me," Lodrick said. "I'm playing and he was like, 'Man, I'm sitting out. You don't understand how weird it is not playing. The thing that you love that you can't do.' I would watch his games just to look at my brother on the sidelines."

Said Rodrick: "It was kind of depressing just sitting there and wanting to be in the game. It was kind of a shock, but I definitely learned from last year and used it for motivation for this year."

Tonight will mark the first time the brothers have played against each other in an organized setting, though it wasn't scheduled at their behest. USC Coach Tim Floyd said the game was nothing more than an attempt to upgrade the Trojans' schedule.

It's also provided months of good-natured ribbing between twins who may have managed to grow closer despite moving some 1,300 miles apart.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so we have to make the most of it," Rodrick said. "I told him I'm going to try to dunk on him before the game's over."

TONIGHT

at Kansas, 6 PST, ESPN2

Site -- Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- USC 5-1; Kansas 6-2.

Update -- Floyd has a 3-9 record against Kansas but has not faced the Jayhawks since his last Iowa State team suffered a 71-54 setback on Feb. 21, 1998, at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas was a fashionable pick to win the national title this season before Oral Roberts knocked off the Jayhawks, 78-71, in Lawrence five days after the Golden Eagles lost to Loyola Marymount. Kansas rebounded to defeat top-ranked Florida shortly thereafter but continued its uneven play in a seven-point loss to DePaul on Saturday.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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