It's a little after 2:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of the school year. An NBA coaching assistant (we're not allowed to say which of the 29 pro teams he's with) is waiting, sitting courtside in a basketball gymnasium at a fancy new Bellevue athletic club. He speaks into a cell phone: "I'm supposed to meet the twins here at 2:00."

High-school junior Asa Furgeson, a skinny black standout point guard at Lake Washington High School, is shooting baskets on the court. He too is waiting for the twins.

The twins show up soon enough, and things get underway. "Give me a four-man weave," the coaching assistant, who's running a private practice session for these promising local hoopsters, says flatly. Furgeson and the twins--with the twins' younger brother Allen along to provide a fourth man--start running fast breaks up and down the court, typically ending with one of the twins sailing into a weighty, stylish dunk.

The twins are Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, 17-year-old juniors at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School, located off South Henderson Street and Rainier Avenue South. A day before this private hoop session, The Stranger sat down with them. It's difficult to tell the twins apart: Identical at 6'5" and 200 pounds, they're both formidable and physically grounded grown men. However, they are teenagers too--reticent and shy around adults, hiding beneath sleepy eyes and smiling rarely. They answer questions with one-word responses. When asked what lessons he learned after scrimmaging with Sonics superstar Gary Payton, Rodrick simply says, "Defense."

When asked how he can become a better player, Lodrick says plainly, "Play harder."

However, the boys' comments do provide some clues into their character. They reveal a rare humility and politeness. "Well, everybody on our team can score," Lodrick says matter-of-factly when asked how he feels about being Rainier Beach's star player.

The two athletes are bona fide NBA-bound basketball phenoms. Lodrick and Rodrick are currently rated numbers two and three, respectively, by PrepStar recruiting service's national ranking of high-school basketball players.

While the teens sport bright white '70s-style sweatbands on their heads, matching "Double Trouble" tattoos on their left arms, their mother's name on their right arms, and matching diamond-stud earrings, their games are not the flash-and-trash you'd expect from high schoolers in the Allen Iverson era. Lodrick and Rodrick play a graceful type of basketball, heavy on hawk-eye shooting, power, and fundamentals. "We don't do trash-talking," Lodrick says. "If someone is talking and pushing, we just walk away, and they'll get called for it."

The goal this year, according to Lodrick: "We're going to be ranked numbers one and two. We're going to play hard."

Judging from the reaction of the NBA coaching assistant at the Bellevue gym, Lodrick's goal is realistic. During an hour of up-tempo drills, as the players work on reverse pivots, off-screen jumpers, and turn-outs, the coach is clearly wowed. In contrast to the other kids on the court, the twins have no trouble with the language of NBA playbook instructions.

"I can't believe this. They catch on so quickly. I'm having a kick," the coach tells the twins' father, Andrew "Bull" Stewart, who watches, beaming, from the sidelines. Even though two more teens have arrived, the coach works almost exclusively with Lodrick and Rodrick. "Good! Nice! Perfect! Outstanding!" he calls out, firing passes at the twins like a human tennis-ball machine.

Not only are pro coaches spending Sunday afternoons working with Lodrick and Rodrick (by the way, Lodrick is left-handed and Rodrick is right-handed!!!), but Bull Stewart claims he's received 15 college recruitment letters per day since recruitment season started in early September. The attention his boys are receiving is almost comical. Only high-school seniors can officially commit to a college. But so much mail is pouring in for the Rainier Beach juniors that Bull has drafted a form letter in response.

In addition to being sort of funny, the letter makes one thing clear: Like Richard Williams, father of tennis sensations Venus and Serena Williams, Bull plays a somewhat, um, active role in his boys' lives. "I request that all future inquiries concerning them be directed to me, personally.... Please do not attempt direct contact with either of the boys."

Indeed, the 43-year-old Bull--an 11-time world champion power lifter and a personal trainer at the Key Tower Gateway Athletic Club--manages the boys like Martha Stewart manages a dinner party. The 17-year-old twins must be in at 7:00 p.m. on school nights, and midnight on weekends. ("If anyone misses a curfew," says Bull, "they're on restriction.") They aren't allowed to carry pagers or cell phones. They're responsible for a weekly regimen of chores (laundry, kitchen, and bathroom duty).

"I have a Southern upbringing," Bull says. "I don't tolerate any foolishness. My discipline is: Whatever means necessary."

Bull's mix of authority and prideful care has worked. In spite of a divorce and a rough move that took the boys away from their mother and their Mississippi hometown six years ago, Bull has raised two disarmingly well-behaved and focused teens. Not only do the boys attend church regularly (including a week of Bible camp during the summer), but they've both got strong B averages at Rainier Beach High School--which has Seattle's lowest average cumulative GPA, second-lowest attendance percentage, lowest standardized test scores in math, and second-lowest scores in writing.

As for the boys' future, there is always the NBA question. On their first day back at school this year, Lodrick and Rodrick were greeted by gawking classmates demanding to know if the pair planned on bypassing college for the NBA. Last year, three of the first four NBA draft picks went straight from high school.

The boys are close friends with Jamal Crawford, a former Rainier Beach star who left college after one year to play with the Chicago Bulls. Crawford has urged the twins not to follow suit. However, Lodrick says he'll go to the NBA if he's picked in the opening lottery, which would guarantee a contract rather than just a tryout.

"You look at the high-school players currently in the NBA," Lodrick says. "Kobe Bryant. Kevin Garnett. Tracy McGrady. They're all dominating the league."

Bull leans back in his chair, beaming again. "If an NBA franchise makes an offer," he says, "that's totally up to these guys."

josh@thestranger.com

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