There's always time to do more for Wake's LaRue Father/student/QB/guard even fits in TV

February 15, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

There appears to be no part of a 24-hour day that Rusty LaRue of Wake Forest doesn't fill up with some activity. Nor, for that matter, is there an idle season in his calendar year.

LaRue, 22, is the ultimate all-purpose athlete. If he isn't playing football for the Demon Deacons, he's playing basketball. If he isn't playing basketball, he's playing baseball.

And if he isn't cavorting on a field of his own dreams, he's likely in a lab working toward a degree in computer science, or at home, looking after his newborn son, Riley, barely two weeks old.

In no particular order, LaRue is a quarterback/wing guard/pitcher/father/student who broke a passel of NCAA passing and total offense records last fall while carving out a 4.0 grade-point average.

LaRue's passion of the moment is basketball, of course. Tonight, nearly five weeks after he bombarded Maryland into 77-64 submission, he'll try to do it again when the No. 8 Deacons (16-3, 8-2) face the Terps (12-8, 5-5) in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Cole Field House.

To play on Thursday night, though, means missing one of his favorite TV nights. Yes, LaRue even fits television into his cramped schedule.

Spare time, Rusty?

"Yes, I do have some," he said yesterday. "I try to get my school work done during the day, and I like to watch TV at night. [ESPN's] 'SportsCenter' is one of my favorite things to watch. And I like prime time TV during the week, especially Thursday with 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld.' "

The senior, who stands 6 feet 2, has enjoyed a blissful, if not storybook, existence at Wake Forest. He hit his first field-goal attempt as a freshman at Wake (a three-pointer). As a sophomore in 1993-94, he became the first Deacon to start in both football and basketball in the same year since Bill Hull in 1961-62.

He married in the summer of 1994, and last month, his wife, Tammy, delivered their first child. As would be expected, LaRue squeezed childbirth and a basketball game into a 24-hour period. Riley was born at 4 a.m. on Jan. 31. At 7 that night, LaRue scored seven points in Wake's 66-62 victory over North Carolina State.

More has always meant better for LaRue, who carries a 3.3 gpa overall.

"For me, obviously it's time management," he said. "I really enjoy everything I do. It never really taxes me. I love being married, and being a student isn't too bad.

"Sometimes, I have to spend a long time in the computer lab. But my wife is great at understanding I have to sacrifice to do some things. She was an athlete herself."

LaRue is hard-pressed to name his favorite sport. He set eight NCAA records as a prolific passer last fall, but is not considered an NFL prospect. He was never able to devote enough time to baseball, which leaves basketball as his most likely path to the pros.

"It's probably my favorite because you can practice by yourself and get better on your own," he said. "I think that's probably my best opportunity."

A three-year letterman as a reserve guard, LaRue started the first 14 games this season. Then, to capitalize on LaRue's versatility, coach Dave Odom brought him off the bench the last five games and started Jerry Braswell. LaRue, the only senior on the team, not only accepted the new role, he reveled in it.

Over those five games, he averaged 13.6 points to raise his season mark to 9.7. In his past two games, LaRue has hit 12 of 17 shots, seven of 11 three-pointers and scored 39 points.

He attributes the hot streak to practice time he's gotten playing point guard with the second unit. He had to play the point when backup freshman guard Armond Wilson was hurt.

"I'm one of those guys who doesn't like to stand around in practice," LaRue said. "I took the opportunity the last two weeks to move to the White team, and I got in a groove."

Maryland coach Gary Williams could see the difference on tape.

"Against Duke, he did some things I hadn't seen him do before," Williams said. "He took the ball to the basket and made a couple of great drives. He's gaining more confidence.

"Coming out of football, it takes time to get into the athletic thing you need for basketball. They are two different things. Now, he's a very good basketball player."

LaRue is second on Wake's career three-point shooting list behind Randolph Childress with 123 treys. On a team that features 6-10 center Tim Duncan, LaRue can make a living on the perimeter.

"It's great for me, being an outside threat," LaRue said. "Him gaining so much attention, you have a lot of freedom to move around."

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