If the last couple years are any indication, Darrell Arthur's 2-year-old baby brother, Tarrell, was born with more potent basketball genes than his 6-foot-8, 200-pound sibling. Tarrell's enthusiasm, in fact, has Darrell shaking his head.
Darrell, a sophomore center at South Oak Cliff High who's rated the No. 16 recruit in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com, didn't even like basketball as a youngster. Tarrell, meanwhile, has the makings of a basketball beast. He tears around the house leaving a trail of broken items in his wake. And he's not afraid to bang with the big guys, routinely launching himself at his big brother and roughing him up. And that's before Tarrell gets courtside.
"He loves to come watch us play," says Darrell (pronounced dare-EL), who averaged 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game as a freshman on a Class 4A state semifinal team built around two senior All-State players. "He tries to jump on the court during the whole game, and my mom has to pull him back. He's always yelling from the stands, and that gets us cracking up on the bench. My teammates are like, ‘Darrell, your brother is crazy!' And I'm like, ‘Yes, he is.'"
Of course, the Golden Bears' Eminem-loving big man, known as "Slim Shady" to teammates, would have never been seen courtside at Tarrell's age. Darrell didn't even give basketball a second thought until the third grade (baseball was his game) and only reluctantly agreed to play in the YMCA recreation league his mom enrolled him in that year.
And while little Tarrell can't wait to wriggle free from his mother's grasp, Darrell, at a similar age, would flip out if his mom left him with a relative just to pop down to the corner store.
"I was a real momma's boy, and my mom reminds me of that all the time," says Darrell, whose attendance at this summer's Nike All-America Camp is expected to be his coming-out party on the national stage. "Every time you tried to take me away from her, I went crazy. In a way, basketball helped me out of that. I just started spending the night at teammates' houses in seventh grade and going on road trips."
Tarrell is only a puzzle piece of the intricate inner circle Darrell Arthur surrounds himself with. More to the point, a circle he shields himself with. There is also, for example, his live-in grandfather, Robert, who passes on hoop lessons learned in his youth while playing East Texas street ball.
"He's always preaching I need a hook shot, so I developed one with my right," says Arthur. "I'm still working on my left."
Also in the mix, of course, is his mom, Sandra, who rarely misses a game and works odd hours to make sure of that.
"She supports me at every game, and she gets off (work) at noon so she can do it," says Arthur, whose parents are separated and whose father, Anthony, lives in Houston with Darrell's two stepbrothers. "It's real important to me that she comes to see me."
Arthur also draws upon the counsel of Golden Bears fifth-year head coach James Mays II, who not only encourages Arthur's isolation from too many outside influences, he orchestrates it.
"Coach is always on me so I won't get big-headed," says Arthur, who will turn 16 on March 25. "He makes sure I just listen to the people who know me. No outsiders. You can tell who those people are. The people who don't see what you do everyday, but they still tell you what you need to do. Fans do it, too. You need to block all that out."
So far, so good reports coach Mays.
"The support system and the people around him is an insulated group," says Mays, 38, a former South Oak Cliff baseball standout. "As long as he stays in that group and keeps away from the vultures and the predators, as we refer to them, he should be OK. He can already identify those people and see them for what they are, which is really important for a kid his age. The people trying to whisper in his ear and tell him what he should be doing. He's not weak-minded, that's for certain."
Single-minded is more like it. He's determined to play college basketball at its highest level.
Arthur works tirelessly on his game with that goal in mind. He owns solid post moves, game-altering shot-blocking ability and a very dependable mid-range jumper (oh yeah, and a righty hook) — all before he's been asked to blow out more than 15 candles on a birthday cake. He's also paying attention in the classroom: The guy actually asks for homework in English class on days none is assigned so he can earn extra credit.
"I want to play college ball, and I've wanted to get out of the hood by doing that since fifth grade," says Arthur. "I like to work harder than everybody else on the court. My coaches tell me to play through every play till the whistle because that's the way I'm going to make it."
Arthur is already displaying the skills and competitive fire required to take over games. In a scholastic career not yet half over, he owns single-game career highs of 22 rebounds and nine blocks. And lest we forget, he's still growing, still adjusting to those growth spurts and stands to benefit greatly from two more years of game experience.
"I haven't had a kid who we knew had a chance to contribute right away on varsity as young as we knew he did," says Mays, who played on the same high school baseball squad as Arthur's father. "I won't say he's a can't miss, but you can see this coming. He has so much more talent than kids in his peer group and kids in general. It's just a matter of time with him."
That'll suit Tarrell just fine. Plenty more games to scream at.