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Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two Jayhawks shaken by relatives’ deaths

Teammates, family lend support as Stewart deals with brother’s murder, Jackson grapples with cousin’s slaying

February 23, 2008

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KU goes back to work against Cowboys

The Kansas men's basketball team returns to work on Saturday after a week off, traveling to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. Enlarge video

— Tragedy hit Kansas University's basketball family this week.

Rodrick Stewart's brother, Allen, 21, was murdered on Wednesday in Seattle.

Darnell Jackson's cousin, Kascey Corie McClellan, 19, also died on Wednesday of gunshot wounds sustained in a Feb. 9 incident at an Oklahoma City nightclub.

Stewart and Jackson both practiced Friday and made the four-hour bus ride to Stillwater and will play in today's 3 p.m. game against Oklahoma State.

"I will just say it certainly puts everything in perspective when you have family members close to you pass away, especially in such a senseless manner," KU coach Bill Self said Friday night in confirming both deaths.

"Both of them have really struggled with it," Self added of senior players Jackson and Stewart. "The last couple of days have been tough for our team. I am proud of our guys, proud of Darnell and Rod how they are handling it. They need to go through the grieving process, and I know they appreciate everyone's support throughout these situations.

"Our players have been great teammates. They are pulling together, and that's what teammates should do. It's what families do when family members are struggling."

No details were available on the Stewart death.

Jackson's mother, Shawn, on Friday said up to 30 relatives from Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Texas will be in Gallagher-Iba Arena today to support Darnell, who is playing a college game in his home state of Oklahoma for the last time.

The relatives also will be on hand to support one another.

"We'll be there when they (Jayhawks) come in tonight, go to the hotel and visit," Shawn Jackson said Friday morning.

A native of Midwest City, Shawn was to make the 80-minute drive to Stillwater to be with her son in this time of tragedy.

"He (Darnell) was really upset Wednesday," Shawn Jackson said. "Coach had him speak with someone (for counseling). We'll try to make this as happy (a trip) as we can. We're going to bring his favorite niece to see him.

"I'm going to move around my schedule so I can stay with Darnell until Senior Night. I'll try to keep him uplifted. The players and coaches keep him uplifted. They are always there for him."

McClellan's funeral likely will be Tuesday. Family members want to make sure Darnell doesn't miss any KU games. The Jayhawks will meet Iowa State Wednesday in Ames and Kansas State on Saturday in Lawrence. It is unknown when the Stewart funeral will be held.

"He died a hero," Shawn Jackson said of McClellan, who Shawn said was trying to stop someone from striking a woman when shots were fired.

"I was talking to coach (Self) about how so many people are dying in our family, young and old," Shawn said.

It has been well documented that Darnell has lost several family members to violent deaths. His grandmother, Evon, died from injuries sustained in a car wreck in May 2005. Shawn was seriously injured in the accident, caused by a drunken driver in the other vehicle.

"I'm proud of his (McClellan's) mother. She's doing very well," Shawn added.

Shawn said the family was looking forward to watching Darnell play the final game in his home state today.

"It's exciting. A lot of people in the family, the majority of them haven't been able to get off work, take the time to see him play in person," Shawn said. "I think he (Darnell) is fired up. He doesn't show me a lot of emotion for it.

"We've got less than two weeks to Senior Night now," Shawn added of the Jayhawks' final home game against Texas Tech on March 3. "I know Darnell is looking forward to the rest of his senior season."

Self, by the way, said as a team the Jayhawks "decided we would not say anything about this to anyone in the media, but both (Stewart and Jackson) thought once people found out it was OK to not hide it from anybody."

¢ Case relatives to attend game: Jeremy Case's mom, Rita, will be making the three-hour drive from her home in Van Buren, Ark., to watch her son play his last game at Gallagher-Iba. Case, who has been at KU five years, like Self is 1-1 at Gallagher and 5-3 in the state of Oklahoma overall.

Case's sister, Dannah, a freshman guard at the University of Fort Smith of Arkansas will attend, as well as sister Katlyn, a junior standout at Van Buren High. Jeremy's older sister, Tiffany, likely won't be able to make it.

"I don't miss the games at OSU. It's real. It's exciting," Rita Newton said. "It's even better when we're winning."

Jeremy Case said he's really looking forward to seeing his mom, stepdad, two aunts and others - in all about 14 relatives.

"I haven't been to Oklahoma in awhile. I haven't seen my mom since Christmas so I'm really excited to see her. And I've got a little nephew that's about 2 years old I haven't gotten to see either. I'll be happy to see them all," Case said.

Mom Rita hopes to finally spend some quality time with her son after his senior season.

"He hasn't had a break in a little while, The most we've had him was four weeks straight last year. That's since he's been at KU. So it will be nice to get him back here this summer," Rita said.

¢ Collins ailing: KU sophomore guard Sherron Collins (bruised right knee) practiced Friday and is listed as probable for today's 3 p.m. game.

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