Arent grows by leaps, bounds

Big man from Del Oro headed to Oklahoma after overcoming challenges on and off the court at Sierra
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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ROCKLIN — Casey Arent is no longer just, “a kid that’s tall.” That’s how the Del Oro High graduate described himself after a prep career that was admittedly mediocre. Upon joining coach John Fusano’s Sierra College basketball team, Arent committed to transforming not just his hoops game, but his academic standards as well. The player no four-year schools were interested in three years ago signed with the University of Oklahoma on Thursday. The 6-10, 240-pound center is part of coach Lon Kruger’s first recruiting class with the Sooners. Arent put on 50 pounds of muscle and his skills improved dramatically during his time at Sierra. Those changes went hand in hand with his growth off the court. “He was open to improving, he was motivated to do it and he started putting in the work,” Fusano said. “In high school, he wasn’t in control of his emotions. He just matured mentally. He gained confidence, not just in basketball, but in his academics.” Arent is the first to admit he’s had his challenges in the classroom. He spent the 2008-09 season getting his grades up to par so that he could be eligible for the Wolverines. Arent credits the academic support staff at Sierra for helping him turn things around. “I didn’t have a learning disability, it was basically just me being lazy,” Arent said. College coaches were tracking Arent throughout his sophomore season at Sierra. He led the state in scoring are rebounding for much of the year and finished averaging 19.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game. Arent visited the University of San Francisco and had interest from several Pac-10 schools, including Cal, USC and Washington State. But the Penryn native visited Oklahoma last week and felt right at home in the small college town of Norman. “I went on my visit last week and I left and I had that feeling. I had chills and a smile on my face all the way home and I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Arent said. “It’s a dream come true.” It didn’t hurt Kruger’s cause that Sierra assistant Chris Walker was talking up the Sooners all season. Walker played at Oklahoma from 2005-2007 and joined the Sierra staff last fall. “All year long he would wear his OU gear,” Arent said of Walker. “He really helped me through the recruiting process.” Kruger had been pursuing Arent when he was coaching at UNLV. When he landed the Oklahoma job earlier this year, the coach doubled his efforts as the Sooners were short on big men for next season. “He brings good size and athletic ability as well as a team-first attitude,” Kruger said Thursday. “(Arent) has worked extremely hard the last two years at Sierra College to position himself to play in the Big 12.” Arent said some coaches have compared his skill set to that of Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Love. “I pride myself on my passing and throwing deep outlets,” Arent said. Once he puts on OU’s crimson uniform, college hoops fans may mistake him for Blake Griffin, the former Sooner who is now one of the NBA’s biggest stars. But Arent isn’t getting ahead of himself. “The NBA is another dream, but I’m not going to go to Oklahoma thinking I’m going to the NBA,” he said. “I came here and I had to prove myself and that’s what I have to do again. I have to prove I can play at an elite level.” What will Arent miss the most next fall when he’s halfway across the country? Probably his mother Barbara’s cooking, which he credits for helping him transform his body while at Sierra. Workouts at Rocklin CrossFit were key in helping him maximize his athleticism. Del Oro High basketball coach Geoff Broyles is looking forward to seeing a former Golden Eagle play on ESPN next season. “We always believed he had the ability to play at the Division I level,” Broyles said. “We’re really proud. He earned it by working really hard.” Del Oro classmates Jason Heath and Ryan Otten helped Arent realize what was possible. Heath earned a football scholarship to UNLV while Otten, a football and basketball standout for the Eagles, is now the starting tight end for San Jose State. “I saw them do it and I knew it was time for me to step up my game,” Arent said. “I stopped talking about it and I just did it.”