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FASTBREAK TO SILVER SCREEN : SEGEL FORSAKES HOOPS FOR ACTING.

Byline: Eric Sondheimer Daily News Deputy Sports Editor

Jason Segel is the best dunker on Harvard-Westlake High School's state-champion basketball team, wears the original 1985 Air Jordan Nike shoes, is the backup center to 6-foot-11 Jason Collins and ranks as the team's No. 1 comedian.

When the Wolverines went to Disney World in Florida last year and were riding a bus filled with tourists, Segel stood up in the back and led everybody in singing Disney tunes. Then in the hotel lobby, he took turns entertaining kids and adults.

``I thought we weren't going to get out of there without (Disney) hiring him,'' coach Greg Hilliard said.

Basketball practice begins in two weeks, but unfortunately for Hilliard, Segel won't be available. Three days before school started in September, the 6-foot-5 senior made the difficult decision to give up basketball so he could embark on an acting career.

``It's all new and exciting and really came out of nowhere,'' he said.

For the past month, almost every day after classes let out, Segel has been going to auditions or meeting with casting directors and others in the entertainment business. He has been reading parts for movie roles of characters in the 17- to 22-year-old category even though he's only 16.

``It's looking real good,'' he said.

His big break came when a powerful woman in the entertainment business had him read a part. ``I guess something caught her eye,'' he said. ``She really got behind me and people are interested. It's a big life change from basketball.''

Beverly Hills-based Radmin Company, a talent and literary management company, is helping open doors for Segel. ``We want to share with the world what a wonderful actor he is,'' Linne Radmin said.

Segel decided his commitment to acting would make it too difficult for him to stay with the basketball team. ``If I start working, I'd have to leave the team and it wouldn't be fair to them,'' he said.

Harvard-Westlake has finished as the area's No. 1 team for three straight seasons and should rank No. 1 to start the preseason. Segel would have been an important contributor.

``All along, he was going to be the sixth, seventh or eighth man and play every game,'' Hilliard said. ``We're going to miss him on the court, but also definitely in the locker room and on the bus. He's legitimately funny and entertaining.''

Segel's drama teacher at Harvard-Westlake, Ted Wach, convinced Hilliard to let him give up basketball by telling him, ``He's the Jason and Jarron Collins down here.''

Said Wach: ``He's very good, really good. The kid's got it. He has a combination of gifts - the ability to grasp the heart of a role quick, the ability to surprise you and natural charisma.''

Segel also has a 3.4 grade-point average and 1490 SAT score. He has already promised to invite basketball teammates to the premiere of his first movie.

Hilliard added, ``He said he'd mention me on his interviews on E! channel.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: Jason Segel, a 6-goot-5 center at Harvard-Westlake High School, is giving up basketball to go into acting. Segel has been auditioning for the past month.

Photo by Michael Owen Baker / Daily News

Photo Illustration by Len De Groot / Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 30, 1996
Words:543
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