The Titans' point guard has overcome some challenges in his life
Alan K. Fox & Max Erman
Darrell Breazell, middle, hangs out with buddies at a game in LCC's Main Gym. Breazell moved to Oregon from California after his best friend was shot.
His background is as interesting as his moves on the court.
Darrell "Lil' D" Breazell grew up around basketball. Life in the Bay Area meant there was plenty of the game to be played. From the parks to the neighborhoods, there's no shortage of hoops in the area.
For as long as he can remember, Breazell remembers playing basketball and he's had support from the beginning.
"I remember playing on a Jordan hoop that my grandfather bought for me," he said.
The backing came not only from his grandparents but his family as a whole. His parents sent him to many basketball camps and there's no hiding the fact that his mother, Daphne, means a lot to him.
"My mom has always been there for me when I needed her to be," Breazell said with a sparkle in his eye.
Those familiar with him on the court echo these sentiments.
"He comes from a great family and we are very happy that he is a part of our basketball family," head coach Bruce Chavka said.
But it hasn't always been easy for the freshman point guard.
Growing up, he was told he'd never make it on the court due to his size. For a basketball player, he's not too tall - while many of his teammates break the 6-foot mark, Breazell stands 5'8'' and has a slender build.
"All through high school people always said I was too little and too short, but I never listened to them," he said. "I would just let it go through one ear and out the other."
Chavka and Breazell's good friend and teammate DeShawn Washington agree: size isn't everything.
"We call him Little D and he literally weighs 126 pounds, but pound-for-pound he is one of the toughest kids I have been around," Chavka said. "He gets blasted and thrown around but keeps coming back for more. He has had some pretty good injuries this year and will need surgery after the season but he keeps bringing the effort and energy."
"Despite his size I would pick him to be my point guard over anybody, due to his heart and leadership," Washington said.
His life before becoming a Titan wasn't exactly smooth sailing. Breazell's parents split while he was in the sixth grade and he moved to Piedmont, Calif., with his mother.
Piedmont is a higher class of neighborhood than what he was used to in East Oakland, although it's only located a few miles to the northeast of Breazell's hometown.
"The transition wasn't so hard because I was in private school so the systems were the same," he said.
It wasn't until his junior year in high school that he started to get serious about basketball. He was starting to get recognition from coaches during workouts. Breazell noticed a difference in his speed and quickness compared to his peers.
"I got really quick and realized that I could drive to the hoop whenever I saw the chance," he said.
While things were going well on the court, Breazell faced plenty of difficulty off it. Shortly before graduating, Breazell lost his best friend during an accidental shooting in April 2010.
"I was with him just about every day and for him to die just made me value my own life and realize how short life can be," Breazell said. "It made me want to get away and start over. That's a big reason why I came to Oregon.
After the incident, Breazell began looking for a fresh start. That's when the LCC coaching staff came in. Chavka and his team played a big role in Breazell's decision to become a Titan.
"The coaches really showed that they wanted me here and they told me that I could really help," he said.
Although coaches have told him to keep a pass-first mindset - he's a point guard, after all - Breazell doesn't stick to that convention. On the court, it's easy to see him as a distributor. Breazell opens many avenues for the team when he hits the hardwood.
He ranks second on the team in assists, in just one year on the team, and ranks seventh in scoring.
While the stats are impressive, they don't tell the whole story.
When he drives the lane, the other team's defense tends to collapse during efforts to stop him from scoring and that opens his teammates for easy shots. This, in turn, leads to easy assists for Breazell.
"Lil' D is a huge impact on and off the court. The way his maturity is above standards for his age and his position is amazing," Washington said.
His presence was missed for a three game stretch when he was out with an ankle injury that some thought could have been a season-ending injury.
His quick return from the injury proved what he's said all along: size doesn't matter.
"Just seeing my guys play without me was hard," he said. "I saw some things that I could have helped with."