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Players back home but looking forward

Antone Jarrell, now at PSU, focuses on a degree and an income

Antone Jarrell still lives at home Ñ sometimes Ñ and gets allowance from his parents. It doesn't embarrass him, either.

'My dad's going to keep making the money until I start making money,' he says. 'I am broke.

'So, if I owe you money, it's going to be a while,' says Jarrell, the former Jefferson High basketball player now at Portland State.

Jarrell estimates that he will be able to graduate by December 2004, midway through his senior year of hoops.

'I'm trying to get through, so I can make money,' he says.

You probably noticed the theme here. Jarrell played at Texas-El Paso for two seasons before transferring to Portland State last year. Initially, he wanted to just enroll at PSU and give up basketball. Seriously, he was ready to quit.

'I just wanted to go to school, kick back and have fun and be normal,' he says. 'I just wanted to be a student and make money.'

A cousin, Johnny West, talked him into continuing with basketball, and new Vikings coach Heath Schroyer persuaded him to stay and play.Jarrell redshirted last season, per NCAA transfer rules, and he will make his debut tonight in the Viks' home exhibition game against MBC Nikolaev.

Schroyer pencils in Jarrell as his starter at small forward and says the 6-6 junior can defend point guards to power forwards.

A whole new team

Jarrell brings much-needed athleticism to the Viks, who have undergone an extreme makeover Ñ of the top nine players Schroyer expects to be in his rotation, only center Seth Scott played last year.

Jarrell and Seamus Boxley, a redshirt in 2002-03 after wrist surgery, practiced all last year and eagerly await playing in real games again. The 6-7 Boxley probably will start at power forward.

Schroyer thinks that Jarrell will help PSU, 5-22 last season, make tremendous improvement.

'He's almost like a Ruben Patterson-type talent,' Schroyer says. 'He can score Ñ streaky shooter, a very good rebounder and a great defender.' His main weakness: the outside jumper. And maybe he isn't quite the athlete he used to be.

'Lost some spring in my hop and pep in my step,' Jarrell says. 'But I got wiser.'

In one respect, Jarrell enjoyed his year off. But he missed the competition. He had played in 63 games in two years in El Paso, starting 20 times and averaging about 20 minutes as a sophomore.

A vagabond of sorts, Jarrell left El Paso, just as he had left Wilson High after his sophomore year to attend Jeff. He needed a change, a different atmosphere.

'I lost my love for the game. Fed up. Burned out,' he says. Soon after, the Texas-El Paso coach resigned, although Jarrell says the coaching change had little to do with his decision to leave.

'I just had to get out of El Paso,' he says. 'Had to center myself.'

Jarrell got his transfer papers, but he says other Division I schools didn't want him. Enter Schroyer. 'He said he'd love to have me, and I said I'd love to have a free education to finish off my degree,' Jarrell says.

A little bit different

As Jarrell explains it, he likes to be an 'outcast,' or somebody few can figure out. He left Wilson 'because I didn't fit in,' and went to Jefferson, where 'I was the guy who went to Wilson,' although the talented guy helped the Democrats go unbeaten in 1999.

At UTEP, he says he stood out as 'black with braids,' and returned home where 'I was the new face.'

Now, Jarrell attends Portland State, where 'everybody's Caucasian except for the athletes.'

Jarrell says he stays at home 'when I need to see my parents' and also lives with friends near the PSU campus. He doesn't have his own place. He likes to keep moving, he says, and not get comfortable.

Schroyer had heard the rap on Jarrell Ñ that he was lazy about schoolwork and wouldn't go to class Ñ but the coach says the player impressed him during the year off. Jarrell carries a 2.6 GPA, up from below 2.0 at UTEP.

'He's done such a great job in the classroom,' Schroyer says. 'It shows his maturity level. It's hard to be successful on the court when you don't have discipline or self-motivation off of it.'

Working together

Most of the new players have come from other schools Ñ such as transfers like Will Funn, Blake Walker, DeShawn Anderson and Sheu Oduniyi from the JC ranks. And Jarrell, who says the new players have committed to playing as a team.

'It's great to have talent, but we've got to learn to work together,' he says.

Jarrell isn't sure what he wants to do for a living. His father, William, works at Portland International Airport as a skycap. His mother, Jane Mayes, retired recently from her job with the Social Security Administration.

'I don't want to do that, but I want to make their bread,' he says.

Maybe he will get a chance to play professionally. If not, he thinks about trying out for Slam Ball, the TV-driven trampoline basketball game.

'That looks tight,' he says. 'I'd invest in it.'