Ferriday sophomore PG eyes importance of academics
Published 12:03 am Thursday, November 6, 2014
FERRIDAY — Jalen Russ isn’t your typical high school teenager.
Sure, Russ spends some of his time on Instagram and on other social media web sites, but the sophomore point guard spends the rest of his free time challenging himself with new mathematical problems and watching the news.
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“I know it’s boring,” said Russ of watching the news. “I’m a little different. I like being different.”
Russ is the son of Joyce Russ, who is the principal at Ferriday Upper Elementary, and Keith Russ, who coaches basketball at North Pike. So naturally, Russ gravitates toward basketball and arithmetic. Russ’ mother Joyce has pushed him to make his studies a main priority, something Russ doesn’t take lightly, planning on using his mathematical skills to one day make money and pay his mother back for the values and work ethic she’s instilled in him through the years.
“One day I want to be able to give back to her, because of all of things that she gave me,” Russ said.
But until then, Russ will continue to enjoy high school, gearing up for his sophomore season with what should be an improved Trojan basketball team.
Ferriday head coach K.G. Watkins said Russ isn’t quite ready to start for the squad, but if he continues to work hard in the gym, Russ will earn some time off of the bench.
“He played a lot of (junior varsity), but he’s going to have to work a little harder to get that playing time he’s looking for on varsity,” Watkins said. “He can do it. He’s just going to have to work hard.”
Working hard isn’t too steep a challenge for Watkins, who idolizes Chicago Bulls’ superstar Derrick Rose for his grit and determination to get back onto the floor. Rose tore his ACL in 2012 and tore his meniscus in 2013.
“I love his work ethic, coming back from all of those injuries,” Russ said.
Russ often times catches himself using math on the floor. Math is the subject that comes most naturally to Russ, so when he’s on the floor, running the offense at point, he’s viewing the defense like a math problem in the classroom.
“With basketball, you have to understand where everybody is, and with math, you have to understand certain problems and equations that if they don’t add up, everything is going to be wrong,” Russ said. “Same with basketball, if you don’t know where everybody else is supposed to be, everybody is going to be wrong.”
Basketball is a hobby for Russ. He knows it, and he accepts it. His ticket to “turn pro” is in the classroom, solving mathematical equations. Because his mother gave him the gift of awareness, Russ has set his goals high, a personal quality that Watkins believes should be celebrated.
“We need to recognize students before we start worrying about athletes,” Watkins said. “He puts his work in the classroom first.”