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Program boosts Ellsburys star power

Fair Game

Jacoby Ellsbury is getting plenty of national play - as is Portland's 'SPARQ' (speed, power, agility, reaction, quickness) program.

The Boston Red Sox rookie is featured in last week's Sports Illustrated, this month's Men's Vogue and next month's Men's Health magazines. All make mention of the former Oregon State All-American's offseason fitness program with trainer Matt James at Velocity Sports in Hillsboro.

'SPARQ,' invented by Rudy Chapa, now is a franchise that is partnered with Nike Inc., which will brand it and begin marketing training footwear and apparel, James says. This winter, Ellsbury became the first baseball player to score more than 100 points in SPARQ testing for the 30-yard dash, vertical jump, shuttle run and rotational power-ball toss.

Over 2 1/2 months of training in the offseason, Ellsbury added 15 pounds to his 6-foot frame and is at 185.

'Jacoby is more powerful and explosive but has kept all his speed,' James says. 'He had a nice splash in the national spotlight last season, but he still feels he has a lot to prove. He's one of those kids who doesn't let success go to his head. A week after he left Boston, he was in the gym with me.'

• Houston's acquisition of veteran point guard Bobby Jackson has all but eliminated playing time for Aaron Brooks. That doesn't mean the Rockets are down on the rookie from Oregon.

'We felt a little more experience behind (starter) Rafer Alston was important,' coach Rick Adelman says, 'but we love Aaron Brooks. He has all the quickness and speed in the world, and he can shoot the ball. He just has to learn how to defend and play in (the NBA).'

• Mock drafts have predicted that Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart will go in the first round, anywhere from No. 16 to Arizona to No. 25 to Seattle. But the ex-Duck standout underwent surgery Wednesday to correct a turf-toe injury originally suffered in November. He had been red-flagged by doctors during medical exams last month at the NFL Combine. The recovery period for such surgery varies from four weeks to six months.

• Today is Pro Timing Day in Corvallis, when representatives of about half of the NFL clubs will watch a dozen Oregon State seniors go through a series of drills that will help determine draft status or free-agent offers.

'It's of major importance because it's the last impression the scouts will have of the players as they go back to discuss the draft,' says OSU coach Mike Riley, for three years head coach of the San Diego Chargers. 'What they've just seen will impact how they put (the players) on the board. They either confirm or change their opinion of a player.

'There's too much stock put into this thing, really. A player's résumé has been written through four years of college ball. How they played there is the best indicator of how they would play at the NFL level.'

Riley is thinking of players such as tailback Yvenson Bernard, who will be downgraded because he ran a 4.8 40 at the NFL Combine last month at Indianapolis.

Bernard will aim to run a better 40 time today. Linebacker Joey LaRocque is another ex-Beaver who hopes to show he is faster than his reputation.

'I'd like to exceed the 4.75 time a lot of teams have for me,' says LaRocque, who has been training in Southern California the past two months. 'I should be able to smoke that. I also want to do a lot of reps (at 225 pounds) on the bench press. I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I'm excited to see what kind of results I'll have.'

• Guard Roy Schuening is the Beaver expected to go highest - perhaps third round - in the April 26 and April 27 draft.

• Oregon State has its first verbal commitment from the class of 2009 - West Albany's John Braun, a 6-5, 250-pound tackle who was first-team All-State both ways as a junior.

• If San Diego's Bill Grier gets the Oregon State basketball coaching job, look for OSU broadcaster Mike Parker to serve as his No. 1 assistant.

'He should have a place for me somewhere,' jokes Parker, a fellow Cottage Grove High alum who coached Grier in summer-league ball years ago.

'I always loved the kid,' Parker says of the longtime assistant under Mark Few at Gonzaga, who took USD to the West Coast Conference tournament title in his first year there. 'He coordinated Few's defenses at Gonzaga and has always paid tremendous attention to detail. I'd be delighted to see him in the conversation about (the OSU) job. What has happened the past two weeks has considerably enhanced his track record.'

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