BOWIE -- Just up the hill from Bowie State University, where the Washington Bullets are conducting their rookie and free-agent camp, lies what was once Bowie Race Course.
The proximity is fitting for Cedric Lewis and Larry Stewart, for they are definitely longshots in a crowded Bullets field.
But neither Stewart, last year's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Coppin State, nor Lewis, who finished second in the nation in blocked shots per game at Maryland, are wagering that they'll be out of the NBA money when the Bullets begin play in November.
"I'm just concentrating on winning a place here," Lewis said yesterday, between sessions on the second day of the three-day camp. "I don't think I would have been invited if I didn't have a shot to make this team."
"I think I'm doing all right," said Stewart. "If you're in shape, you're OK. There's been a lot of banging, but that's OK."
There's no mistaking that both Lewis and Stewart, who were passed over in the two-round NBA draft last month, have tough challenges ahead, starting with this week's camp, whose invitees include former NBA players Shelton Jones, Brian Rowsom and Greg Butler, as well as current Bullets A.J. English, Greg Foster, Larry Robinson and Tom Hammonds.
The challenge continues tomorrow when the team will select a group that will travel to Auburn Hills, Mich., to meet similar teams from the New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in a weekend tournament.
Stewart, who averaged 23.9 points and 13.4 rebounds for Coppin State, will have to battle the notion that he dominated against less than stellar collegiate competition, as well as the perception that at 6 feet 7 and 210 pounds he is too small to play inside and too slow to play on the perimeter.
"I was usually the tallest guy in my league, so I'm not used to seeing guys this tall," said Stewart. "It's not really intimidating, but it's different. It's an adjustment that I have to make. I go up and take it really strong. You just have to go out and play."
Stewart said his Coppin coach, Fang Mitchell, did his best to provide the Eagles with quality competition. Since the end of the college season, Stewart has been sharpening his skills in his Philadelphia hometown with Sacramento's Lionel Simmons, Minnesota's Pooh Richardson, and LaSalle's Doug Overton, who was taken in the second round by the Pistons.
Stewart said he has been invited to nine NBA camps and will be heading to the Dallas Mavericks camp after his term with the Bullets ends. He says that his ultimate goal is to play in the NBA, and given Washington's proximity to his home and his college stomping ground, he'd be just as happy here.
"This would be kind of nice to play here. It would be close to home and I'd be around my friends and family. But I just want to play somewhere," said Stewart.
That's precisely what Lewis, the youngest of the 13 players invited to the Bullets' camp and a Temple Hills native, is trying to accomplish.
"This would be a dream to play for my hometown team," said Lewis. "The only things that I knew growing up were the Orioles, Redskins, Capitals and the Bullets."
While Stewart's offensive skills are unquestioned, Lewis' are at best raw and underdeveloped. Last season was the first in his four years at Maryland where Lewis averaged in double figures.
But Lewis can play defense and block shots, as Ohio State's Perry Carter can attest after having his layup attempt swatted away yesterday by the 6-9, 230-pound Lewis.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, but playing gets you rid of that," said Lewis.
Both general manager John Nash and coach Wes Unseld were noncommittal about the chances of Lewis, Stewart and the rest of the invitees to make the regular-season roster.
But then, nobody's really committed to the longshot until he crosses the finish line in first.