Brent Petrus did not know what he was getting into. Not exactly. He figured himself for a practice player on Bob Huggins' basketball team, a human sacrifice for Bearcat hoops.
He was not looking for playing time so much as he was trying to avoid down time. The end of the University of Cincinnati's football season had created a void in Petrus' extra-curricular calendar, and left him more time on his hands than he cared to handle. Rick Minter's senior wide receiver volunteered for Camp Huggins because it was better than the alternative, which was boredom.
Petrus remains restless, but in a different sense of the word. Where he formerly ached for activity, he now suffers from lack of sleep.
''I've been doing sports as long as I can remember,'' he said before Wednesday's 81-71 victory over Minnesota. ''It keeps me busy. But I'm kind of worn out right now. Seven hours of sports a day takes its toll on you.''
The football Bearcats' late-breaking invitation to Boise's Sports Humanitarian Bowl has pushed Petrus and Brad Jackson toward the point of exhaustion. Tuesday, the two players participated in a three-hour basketball practice, a three-hour football practice, a second, abbreviated basketball practice and a late-night film session.
Final exams are over, but Christmas break has so far been unrelenting. If Brent Petrus were spread any thinner, he could be served on a cracker.
'It's been rough'
''It's been rough,'' he said Wednesday afternoon, a UC football letter jacket layered over a UC basketball sweatshirt. ''But you don't get too many opportunities to play two sports at the same time. I haven't had time to sit back and realize the situation I'm in. But I think it's going to be fun.''
On Dec. 27, Petrus and Jackson are scheduled to practice with the football Bearcats in Idaho, then fly to Cleveland for UC's basketball game that night against Massachusetts. They are to return to Boise the following day, play in the Humanitarian Bowl on the 29th, and are expected back for the Bearcats' home basketball game against Winthrop on the 30th.
If this is Petrus' idea of fun, he would have loved the Bataan Death March. Athletes can be curious creatures that way. Just when Petrus should probably be overwhelmed by fatigue, he has flourished.
Looks like a ringer
He was easily UC's most effective player in Saturday's Crosstown Shootout - sinking all six of his shots from the field. He scored only three points Wednesday, but had won enough of Huggins' confidence to log nearly 23 minutes of playing time. With each new game, Petrus looks less like a practice player and more like a ringer.
''He came out and shot the ball better than I thought he'd shoot the ball,'' Huggins said. ''He's tough and he's a good athlete. The way we play, if you're tough and you're a good athlete, we'll find a place for you.''
''I'm trying to pick and choose my spots,'' Petrus said. ''Some of the football players are after me to shoot more, but I don't want to go out there and start gunning . . . My feet were a little slow when I started out, but it's getting better.''
Brent Petrus is nothing if not adaptable. He played four sports at Elyria Catholic, and was originally recruited as a quarterback. He switched to wide receiver this fall for a chance to play. He switched to basketball for a chance to keep playing.
Lately, he has been on the run almost constantly.
''Football shape is a whole different thing,'' he said. ''You play for 10 seconds and you get a minute rest. Basketball is up-and-down, non-stop.''
Petrus' last competitive basketball was intramural. He played last season for ''Bow Down,'' a team comprised of football players with delusions of dunking.
''I dunked in intramurals,'' Petrus said. ''And I'm going to get one he re before too long. I need about two steps.''
Brent Petrus is a man of modest goals. Wednesday afternoon, his aim in life was a nap. You understand.