"He wasn't a blue-chipper in high school, but he is now," said Don Kelley, one of Stewart's assistant coaches.
"He's gifted," said Stewart. "When he grits his teeth and goes to the basket he's about as good as anybody. I'd just like to see him be more intense on defense."
Players and coaches were mustered in limby knots on the beds and chairs and floors of two adjoining rooms in a motel in Lawrence, Kansas, coaches and team having flown in for a crucial night game with rival Kansas. The budget allowed for just the two rooms for the 12 players and coaches to relax in before the game. They had left Columbia in midmorning in three twin-engine planes. Kennedy got to fly in the best of them, a seven-seater Cessna 402 that Stewart reserves for the starting team while he himself takes a slower model.
During the dead time between arrival and the pregame afternoon meal, the players lolled in the rooms. Stewart got a spades game going in one, with Scott Sims as his partner, and turned the volume up on a Western song. In the other room, Kennedy turned the pages of his $15 Business Financial Management text and put it down for the second time. "Very dry," he said.
"Coach loves that hillbilly music, doesn't he?" said Danny Van Rheen.
"He really had it going last summer," said Kennedy. "We took this float down the Current River in southeast Missouri, way down in the sticks, practically in Arkansas, and he put on his Merle Haggard tape and his cowboy hat and really got it going."
"Why a canoe trip?"
"To develop a close-knit group. Team harmony and all that. I know that's what he has in mind, and with this team it works."
In the other room, Stewart was dealing and telling a story about coming to Lawrence as a player for a game and going into the dressing room at halftime to find a foot of snow on the floor. A window had been left open. He suggested sabotage.
"What happened in the second half?"