Stewart has shot, but it must be outside one

October 25, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

BOWIE -- Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell's deep voice seemed to rise an octave when asked about one of his former players, forward Larry Stewart.

"I've heard of him," said Mitchell. "He's the one enjoying himself."

To say the least, rookie Larry Stewart is having some fun as he tries to make the Washington Bullets' roster. Count the ways:

* A team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds against the New York Knicks on Oct. 13.

* A team-high seven rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 14.

* A team-high 22 points against the Miami Heat last Sunday in the Bahamas.

"I was really nervous in the first game," Stewart said of that night on Long Island against the Knicks. "It's not like college; everyone is the same size. But once I got in the game the nervousness went away. It was different, but still familiar."

It wasn't until he got back to his hotel room and read the stats that he realized he had scored 23 points.

Tomorrow, in a preseason game against Boston in Albany, N.Y., Stewart will try for another big performance.

"I was shocked," he recalled yesterday after practice. "It was like those 23 points came easy; a lot of them came at the foul line.

"It's a real funny feeling right now. We didn't win those games, but I'm trying to make the team. It's like I'm up one minute when I think about what I'm doing and down the next, when I think about what the team's doing. I'm not used to losing."

He's not used to taking outside jump shots, either.

At Coppin State, the 6-foot-8 Stewart was "Mr. Inside" and his teammate Reggie Isaac, who has signed with Grand Rapids in the Continental Basketball Association, was "Mr. Outside."

Mitchell spent a lot of time teaching his players to accent their pluses. It was "go with the known and leave the unknown alone," said Mitchell.

But when Bullets coach Wes Unseld talks about Stewart, he talks of the known and the unknown. Stewart first caught his eye because for a "big man he had the unique ability" to run the floor well.

"On this road trip, he showed he can score and he showed he can run," said Unseld, whose team is 0-6 in exhibition play. "But he's got to get out there and improve his defense and expand his offense. He's got to expand his area of effectiveness."

That means hitting the outside jumper.

"Coach has told me I've got to set picks, play better defense and shoot the open jump shot," Stewart said. "I'm working on it. I'm practicing it. But in college, I was used to playing in the paint, and to me, that outside shot is a bad shot."

Stewart is shooting 50 percent (27-for-54) from the field. He is a solid 82 percent (37-for-45) at the foul line.

"He doesn't take bad shots," said Bullets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik."And we know shot selection is as important as the ability to shoot. He's intelligent and knows his limitations.

"He's gotten a lot of playing time because of injuries, and he's done well. Couple his on-court performance with the injuries and his chances of making the team seem much greater than when he first arrived."

But can a player who knows his limitations expand his shooting range successfully?

"We've always stressed that the door doesn't always open for you, but put your foot in any little crack you can find and push," said Mitchell. "Larry's done exactly that. He's made his way.

"Now, if they want him to shoot the outside shot, he has one to shoot. He just didn't shoot it here and that means he simply has to get some confidence . . . But Larry finds a way to do whatever you ask him to do."

*

Pervis Ellison (slightly strained upper thigh muscle) and Ledell Eckles (slightly bruised ribs) did not practice in either the morning or afternoon sessions yesterday.

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