Growing up, Terrell Malone never really thought much about playing organized basketball.
He was always shorter than most of his classmates and had yet to reach 6 feet by the end of his senior year at Jefferson County High School in Fayette, a small town about 70 miles southwest of Jackson, Miss.
After graduating in the spring of 1986, Malone moved to Southern California to work in construction with an uncle.
At the time, he wasn't thinking about going to college, let alone playing basketball. But after growing four inches in a three-month period, he decided to give basketball a try and played at Saddleback in the 1987-88 season.
He sat out last season, but has returned as an inside force for the Gauchos this season.
Malone is averaging 17.1 points and 6.7 rebounds a game despite facing opponents who are at least three-to-five inches taller.
Starting in November 1986, Malone grew from 5-feet-11 to 6-3 in three months and gained 25 pounds. He is now 6-4, 205 pounds.
Malone first got a sense of his abilities while playing in pickup games.
"People would always come up and ask me who I played for," Malone said. "I would tell them nobody and they would be amazed."
Malone decided to give basketball a try in 1987, and friends told him Saddleback might be a good place to start. The Gauchos had played in the 1987 state championship game, losing to Ventura, 76-72.
Malone called Saddleback Coach Bill Brummel, then played in a summer league at the college.
"He didn't have a lot of basketball experience," Brummel said. "And that still holds him back some, but he can play. He has such great ability that at any time I think his whole game will explode for him."
Malone averaged 4.4 points and four rebounds in 1987-88, but was frustrated because his ballhandling skills weren't up to the level of competition.
He sat out last season to work on his skills and wait for the chance to play for Brummel again. Brummel took last season off to work as a volunteer assistant for Indiana Coach Bob Knight.
"My first year, scoring was a problem," Malone said. "I just wasn't geting the job done once I would get the ball. They gave me the ball inside and I just couldn't hang on to it."
Since returning to the team, Malone has been one of the Gauchos' most consistent players. He has scored in double figures in 22 of 25 games, and has scored 20 or more 12 times.
Malone's career high of 27 came in December against Columbia. He has scored 26 points twice in conference games, against Rancho Santiago and Orange Coast.
"It's a hard game to try and pick up on the college level," Brummel said. "But if you're going to make it you have to be a good athlete and a hard worker, and Terrell is both of those."
Big company: Eric Pauley of Cypress had nine blocked shots last week to boost his county-leading total to 106. Pauley, a 6-10 freshman, becomes only the second player in Cypress history to block more than 100 shots in a season.
The other is Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz center, who had a Cypress record 152 blocks in 1978-79. Eaton had 68 blocks the next season and holds the Cypress career record at 220.
Community College Notes
Cypress basketball Coach Don Johnson got his 495th career victory Saturday when the Chargers defeated Fullerton, 80-54. He has a record of 495-208 in his 23rd season at Cypress. Johnson has a chance at victory No. 500 with Cypress having four regular-season games remaining and at least one game in the playoffs. . . . Fullerton was declared the winner of the rain-shortened San Diego Mesa baseball tournament last weekend. The Hornets won their first two games and were leading in the third, 7-0, after four innings before the rain came. . . . Fullerton, Rancho Santiago and Orange Coast all return to San Diego this weekend to play in the Southwestern tournament. Fullerton plays L.A. Valley at Grossmont, Orange Coast plays Los Angeles Harbor at Southwestern and Rancho Santiago plays San Bernardino Valley at San Diego Mesa. All games are at 10 a.m. Thursday. . . . The Rancho Santiago softball tournament opens at 9 a.m. Friday at Camino Real Park in Orange.