NATTILY ATTIRED in his well-fitted jeans, his properly sized shirt and his brand new pair of sneakers, Casiem Drummond waltzed into Reggie Redding's dorm room and posed.
"How do you like me now?" Drummond asked his Villanova teammate.
Redding took one look at Drummond's feet and grinned. The grin quickly turned into a belly laugh. Drummond was wearing old-school Chuck Taylors, the same sneakers most of the Villanova players favored, the same sneakers Drummond, a fan of the baggy-jean, baggy-T-shirt urban uniform, swore he never would wear.
The clothes didn't make the man. The clothes symbolized the man.
"I changed, practically overnight," Drummond said. "I don't know why it happened, but it happened. I grew up."
Drummond grew up in the nick of time, both for himself and Villanova. Ever since Jason Fraser's knees turned a promising career into a M*A*S*H unit, the Wildcats have gotten by on smoke and mirrors, relying on a mix of out-of-position power forwards, a la Will Sheridan and Dante Cunningham, and Lilliputian guards to man the post.
Drummond was recruited as the Band-Aid and last season showed signs that he could be an answer to Villanova's shortcomings, memorably limiting Georgetown's Roy Hibbert to two points (both free throws) and three rebounds in a 56-52 January win. But he lacked consistency and, worse, immaturity prevented him from gaining his coach's trust and confidence.
A self-described nuisance, Drummond wiled away his time in Jay Wright's doghouse, a nudge who intentionally did things he knew he shouldn't simply to get attention. The Attitude Club board in the locker room, Wright's way of measuring which players did the little things well, never showed Drummond's name. He was part of an attitude club, all right, but it was because he had one; not because he played with one.
Drummond was miserable, riding the bench for the first time in his basketball life, exhausted as his less-than-conditioned body struggled in the daily practice grind and, most of all, angry as a hornet at his coaches and teammates who said he was overweight.
At the time, Drummond tipped the scales at 320 pounds, his playing weight at Bloomfield Tech in East Orange, N.J. He was big, yes, but he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds as a senior and was an all-star. So who were they to say he was overweight?
At night, Drummond headed back to his dorm room for late- night and even all-night talks with his roommate, Antonio Pena. He wanted to quit.
"I kept saying this is not for me," he said. "Attitude Club? I didn't even know what that stuff was. Dive on the floor? I never did that. Antonio would tell me, 'If I stick it out, you have to stick it out,' but he was redshirting, I wasn't."
By season's end, Drummond had played in 19 games but averaged just 7 minutes per game. Tired of hearing his coaches carp about his weight, he decided he'd try to lose some of it.
He was motivated.
"My thing was, 'I bet you I can't do it,' " Drummond said. "I wanted to prove they were wrong - that I couldn't lose the weight - and then throw it in their face."
And then, with just a little work, the weight peeled off and like a child who becomes an adult and suddenly hears his parents' words spilling out of his own mouth, Drummond realized his coaches were right.
So Drummond went full-on diet, cutting out fast food, junk food, even his favorite cookies, and eliminating late-night food runs. Drummond never ate after 7 p.m., drank gallons of water, and when he went home for a break between summer sessions, started running in the park.
When Drummond was a freshman, Curtis Sumpter told him that a little work on the track would do him wonders, but Drummond refused. He knew he wouldn't make it a lap and wasn't about to embarrass himself. But without anyone watching, he slowly built his stamina, interspersing laps of jogging with all-out sprints for upwards of an hour.
When Drummond returned to campus in August, his teammates were stunned, joking that it looked as if he had "lost a whole human."
Rewarded with a starting spot that Drummond first thought was simply Wright tinkering with his lineup, he has in turn rewarded his coach. He is averaging 7.5 points a game, but, more importantly, 9.2 rebounds, pulling in 17 boards against North Carolina State. Villanova has a legitimate, bona fide inside game.
Drummond's 6-10 frame now carries 276 pounds and his waist size has plummeted from 44 to 38. Tired of poking holes in his belt to keep his pants on and sick of borrowing Pena's jeans, Drummond earlier this year hit the mall with Pena, Redding and Shane Clark.
It was like taking Tarzan to Macy's. Drummond had no idea what size he wore, no clue how to buy tight clothes.
"Oh, man, that's my boy, I had to help him," Pena said. "He needed help."
Drummond slunk to the back of the store to check out the T-shirts, realizing quickly none looked like the knee-scrapers he usually wore.
Taking a leap of faith, he grabbed one - a large - and went into the dressing room.
What emerged was not just a sartorial wonder but a different person. The baggy clothes are gone, and with them the weight of the angry young man Drummond used to be. The same teammates who thought he was surly and mean last season now tease that he talks too much. Villanova's season leader for Attitude Club is none other than Drummond. In six games, Drummond has won four times.
And just last week he bought his second pair of Chuck Taylors.
He does still have some baggy clothes. Two pairs of size-44 jeans hang in Drummond's closet. He likes to show them off when friends stop by, show how big he used to be.
He also likes to remind himself how he used to be.