Thursday, March 6, 2003

UK Notebook

Tragedy marked, Stewart honored

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith said he will never forget John Stewart III, who died before ever playing a game for the Kentucky coach. Feleica Stewart can vouch for that.

"He still calls us every few months," she said of Smith. "I appreciate him showing the support."

Smith insisted Stewart be included Wednesday in Senior Night ceremonies. The 7-footer from Indianapolis Lawrence North High had signed with UK and would have been a senior this season, but he died March 12, 1999 of heart failure after collapsing in an Indiana tournament game.

"He's in our hearts," Smith said Wednesday. "He was a special type of person - outgoing, jovial. On the phone, he'd have me laughing.

"He's always with us."

During the ceremony, a video of Stewart's highlights was shown on the big screens. Then Smith presented Feleica and her husband, John II, with a framed Kentucky jersey - No. 53, the number their son wore in high school.

"I couldn't ask for anything better," John Stewart said of the ceremony. "It was outstanding. (But) it was also heartbreaking."

"I wasn't surprised (by the gesture," Feleica said. "That's the kind of guy (Smith) is."

UK's seniors had met Stewart during his recruiting visit, and they spoke highly of him Wednesday.

"He was such a great guy," fifth-year senior Jules Camara said. "He'd have been such a great leader on this team."

TOUCHING TRIP: Camara's mother, Marie, flew in from Senegal to join him for Senior Night. It was the first time she had seen him play for UK.

"It was a privilege for her to see me play," Camara said. "It meant a lot. I will always remember this game."

Camara said he hadn't seen his mother in two years. He said he buys calling cards and calls home at least once a week.

Smith gave Camara a spot start Wednesday, and he totaled eight points and six rebounds, including three dunks.

COVER BOY: UK's Cliff Hawkins graces the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.

"I don't want to hear about the jinx," Hawkins said. "I guess it didn't affect me tonight."

CAT TALES: Kelenna Azubuike's 16 points Wednesday are one more than he had totaled in his previous 14 Southeastern Conference games. ... Since 1920, UK is 79-4 on Senior Day, winning 38 of the last 39. ... The margin of victory was the largest since UK beat Morehead State 96-32 on Dec. 16, 1995. It was the largest victory over an SEC foe since beating Georgia 143-66 on Feb. 27, 1956.

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