Going the Long Way

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
Paul Coro
The Arizona Republic
June 26, 2004

Some kids take the morning bus to get to school. Jackson Vroman took one to get away from school.

If not for a chronic case of high school hooky, the Suns' newest player may never have made an improbable journey from European soccer to the 31st pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

Vroman is 6 feet 10 and the son of a former European pro basketball journeyman, but that does not tell the story of his basketball beginnings.

He was a 6-foot high school freshman who grew up on soccer in Italy, Greece and Spain, and for his first three years of high school in Salt Lake City, Vroman and a friend put Ferris Bueller to shame. They ditched school regularly, taking a bus downtown to play hoops.

"I didn't go anywhere without gym shorts underneath my pants," Vroman said Friday. "Everyone always asked why I wasn't in school. I'd just tell them I was being home-schooled."

Vroman lived a nomadic life, beginning in Europe, where his father, Brett Vroman, had a 12-year basketball career. His parents divorced when he was in grade school, and when Vroman was in eighth grade, his mother sent him and his older sister, Lauren, from Anchorage, Alaska, to their father in Salt Lake City.

"It's pretty crazy from an outside perspective, but it's the only life I knew," Vroman said.

Brett Vroman replaced Bill Walton at center for UCLA and played for John Wooden's 1975 national champs. He finished at Nevada-Las Vegas and tasted the NBA in 11 games with Utah.

"When Jax was a freshman, I went down to Deseret Gym on a weekend to watch, and he was playing with men," Brett Vroman said. "At the end, he took over the game and hit a fade-away 20-footer to win. I thought, 'Wow, what am I looking at?'

"Then I said, 'OK, Dad, you're getting your hopes and reality intertwined.' "

He didn't learn of Jackson's weekday escapades until Jackson was a junior. Even after an automated system at one school called home to report Jackson's absences, the sly youth put in a change of address and phone number to keep Dad in the dark.

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Vroman attended five high schools, for a variety of reasons. The family moved, he had problems with a coach, he struggled with academic eligibility. He graduated from an alternative school, not the one for which he was an all-stater as a senior.

The gym time in Salt Lake City may have been a necessary evil to raise his game.

He did not have the grades or basketball r