Jarrod Stukes is comfortable with the role of underdog.
In fact, growing up, the La Salle High senior was treated like a pup, thanks to his two talented older brothers.
This season, however, Stukes could use his unheralded status to emerge as a major factor in the Catholic League basketball season.
"Yeah, it is motivation," said Stukes, a 5-foot-8, 165-pounder. "You know big names like Quade Green [of Neumann-Goretti] and other players, so I consider myself an underdog. But I just want to go out there and compete against the best competition."
As a youngster, Stukes didn't have to go far from his Germantown home to find just that.
His older brother Amar (2013) is a sophomore at La Salle University. Another brother, Nadir, played at Engineering and Science (2011) and later at Rosemont College.
"It definitely shaped me a lot with being aggressive," Stukes said of battles with his brothers at the Mallery Recreation Center. "They never let me win, so I always had to keep battling. It was just always great competition playing against them because they never took it easy on me, so it made me a great competitor."
This season, Stukes must also slide into a leadership role. The Explorers have just two returning seniors and will need contributions from sophomores Konrad Kiszka, a 6-6 forward, and 6-8 forward Zach Crisler.
"I've been trying to challenge [Stukes] with his leadership," said La Salle coach Joe Dempsey. "He plays hard. He's a tremendous defender. He plays with passion, and the guys love him and respect him. But I've been challenging him as I've done with a lot of our good players. Can they make other people better? So far so good."
Stukes is a quick, darting guard who possesses excellent ballhandling skills and has a knack for penetrating defenses and finding open teammates.
He does, however, have one deficiency in his offensive game.
"I think I improved on my jump shot," he said. "A lot of teams last year packed it in on me because they didn't respect my jump shot, and they didn't want me to get to the hole and create for others. So this summer I just worked on my jump shot so I can spread the defense out, attack and pass to the shooters on my team."
Stukes averaged 10.7 points per game in Catholic League play last season. Matt Paulus, a 5-10 shooter, is the Explorers' other senior.
Stukes has garnered varying degrees of Division I and II interest, but for now his focus is on his last high school season.
"I've waited a long time to be a senior," he said. "This is my last year, so I want to see how far we can go. We have two good sophomores as starters, and I'm just excited to see how far the season can go."