Stukes' sign: artist at work


Levi Stukes was all over the basketball court at Woodlawn High on Monday, not so much moving up and down it as flowing over it, bringing with him the waves of Randallstown's offense.

Whatever the barrier, Stukes found a way to get around it, finishing with 25 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and a blocked shot in a 90-75 rout.

"I always say Levi was born with two gifts: the ability to draw and the ability to play basketball," said Tammy McKoy, 38, whose son's rendering of Michael Jordan in seventh grade was prominently displayed on the uniform of his recreation team.

"He got his first basketball when he was 3, and he hasn't put it down since then. When his eyes are open [in the morning], playing basketball is the first thing he wants to do."

Stukes reached deep into his bag of skills against Woodlawn. On fast breaks, he threaded passes to teammates like a master. On three successive occasions, his pass was the first in three-pass sequences that ended with layups by teammates.

Other times, the junior swingman surged through gaps or slipped past defenders for close-range jumpers or layups. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder nailed two of his three three-pointers consecutively.

"Whether it's slashing to the basket, shooting the three-pointer or taking a person one-on-one, I want to be an all-around player," said Stukes, a junior who is the lone returning starter for the defending Class 3A state champion.

Stukes is averaging 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals for the fourth-ranked Rams, who are 21-0. Randallstown can win a second straight Baltimore County title against Woodlawn tomorrow night.

Randallstown coach Kim Rivers calls Stukes "a man-child." His long, sinewy arms - sculpted from a regular weight-training regimen - seemingly extend to his knees. His powerful legs give him the lift needed to dunk on the fly - something he has been able to do since eight grade.

"I first heard about him from his cousin, Jerel Wilson, who played for me," said Rivers. "Jerel kept telling me, 'You've got to see my cousin. He's going to be the best player you've ever coached.'

"So I go to see him play during an open gym at Old Court Middle, and there's this big-boned kid who is almost the same size that he is now. I shook his hand, and it was bigger than mine.

"I watched him handle the ball, and I knew when he got up here, he didn't need to play on the JV team. I knew he would be the first freshman ever to start for me."

Stukes saw spot duty on a talented squad as a freshman, but he longed to be a star on the JV.

"He complained that I was always on him for making mistakes, said he wanted to be on JV with his friends," Rivers said. "But I told him, 'I'm on you because I know how special a player you can be.' "

Stukes made his biggest impact in last season's state semifinals and final in wins over Westlake of Charles County and Thomas Johnson of Frederick County. Playing mostly in the paint, he combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds in the two games.

"He played a major role down the stretch," Rivers said. "At times, he showed more leadership than anybody on the court."

Stukes is as talented with a pencil as he is with a basketball, having drawn numerous pictures of himself in action on the court.

"It's something I do mostly when I'm by myself, thinking," said Stukes, a 3.0 [grade point average] student who lists art among his favorite subjects. "I want to work on drawing so I have something to fall back on other than basketball."

Stukes aims to become a full NCAA qualifier before he is a senior. He will take an SAT prep course next quarter and plans to take the SAT twice before September.

"Levi can score, he can go in there and get rebounds, and he can play the point on the collegiate level. He's our team captain - a true leader. I would say a born leader whose teammates respect him," Rivers said.

"But he's not one who thinks he's bigger than the team. When he won MVP at the Wes Unseld tournament, and when he was MVP at the Mayor's Academy [tournament], he made sure that the first thing was thanking his teammates and he let them take part in the award. He was like, 'Let me make sure my teammates are involved.' "

Until this year, Stukes often baby-sat his siblings, Natasha, 11, and Morgan, 10. But McKoy has taken over, having temporarily halted her college education so her son can be free to study and hone his basketball skills.

Stukes also spends time with his grandmother, helping her with everything from household chores to grocery shopping.

"Doing my homework and helping out my grandmother, right now that's my life," Stukes said. "That, and playing basketball."

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