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Panthers basketball teammates turn their lives into victories

Carl Appleton, Portland Community College sophomore forward, cheers on the Panthers while taking a breather on the bench. The 6-4 former Central Catholic High standout helped lift PCC to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship this season.

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Carl Appleton and Anthony Hines share a brotherhood that extends several ways.

Appleton played football with Adonal Arrington, Hines’ older brother. Appleton, 29, and Hines, 22, have known each other since Anthony was “like 3 or 4 years old,” he says.

Last week, Appleton and Hines hoisted a trophy together. They were members of the Portland Community College team that won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship at Kennewick, Wash.

Appleton and Hines are linked in one other way. They have both spent part of their young lives incarcerated in penal institutions.

“Anthony and I are really close,” says Appleton, a 6-3, 250-pound sophomore forward. “We talk about more than having been locked up. We talk about life. I’m an older brother type.”

Appleton spent a total of about three years at Snake River (Ontario) and Shutter Creek (North Bend) correctional institutions and in the Multnomah County Jail for what he says were burglary and an assortment of drug possession and probation violation charges.

Hines spent nearly four years at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility and Shutter Creek for what he says were assault and unlawful use of a weapon charges.

To have their lives converge on such a sublime path to Kennewick this winter “has to be more than just coincidence,” the 6-8, 230-pound Hines says. “Maybe it’s fate.”

Appleton was a football/basketball standout at Central Catholic who began his college career as a tight end at Oregon State in 2004. He lasted one year.

“I decided to go to more to more parties than classes,” says Appleton, who was one of four players involved in the infamous “Headline Cafe” incident in which defensive end Joe Rudulph punched an off-duty National Guardsman and later pled guilty to fourth-degree assault.

Appleton left school, returned to Portland and drifted for a few years.

“It was hard to fill the football gap in my life,” he says.

He took some classes at PCC and, in 2008-09, played on the Panthers’ basketball team. “We weren’t very good,” he says.

Meanwhile, Appleton’s life was going in the wrong direction. He was homeless for a while.

“I went through a lot of addiction,” he says. “It started while I was at Oregon State. I came back home with no purpose. I had drinking and drug habits, which caused me to do a lot of things to support those habits.

“I didn’t follow the rules. It’s hard to stay out of jail when you can’t pass a (urinary analysis). I did that for years. I was lost for a long time.”

Hines was a 6-4 freshman when he turned out for basketball at Grant High in 2008. The Generals’ head coach was Tony Broadous now the PCC coach. Hines lasted two days before dropping out of the tryouts. “I just decided I didn’t want to play,” he says.

Hines lasted at Grant until early in his junior year.

“I’d been going through a lot of personal problems,” he says. “I was really depressed. I was smoking a lot of pot. One night, I was intoxicated while on a lot of different medications (for depression). My mental state, the medicine and the alcohol it was the perfect combination to lead to what happened. I assaulted my friend with a knife.”

The incident occurred on New Year’s Eve 2008. Hines was 16. Two months later, he entered MacLaren.

Appleton and Hines both completed sentence through Shutter Creek’s early-release program Appleton in 2008, Hines in early 2012. Appleton says he last served time at the Multnomah County Jail for probation violation, getting his final release in August 2012.

Hines decided he wanted to play organized basketball for the first time since sixth grade. He’d played quite a bit in the pick-up games at MacLaren and was signed to play in the Portland pro-am summer league. His brother had played at Mount Hood CC and enrolled at the school for spring term 2012, expecting to play for the Saints in 2012-13.

Then he ran into Broadous, who had only recently assumed the PCC job. Broadous enticed Hines to transfer and join the Panthers’ program.

Hines played a key role as a freshman on the PCC team that went 12-15 overall but 8-6 in NWAACC play last season. “I was super uncomfortable, because I’d never really played on (an organized) team,” he says. “But it was fun. I love basketball.”

Appleton, meanwhile, wanted to make his life more meaningful.

“For years, I was digging deep,” he says. “Instead of being frustrated and ashamed about how far down I was, I finally picked my head up and started back up.”

Appleton took some classes at PCC last spring and stopped by to say hello to athletic director Dick Magruder.

“Dick told me about the changes to the program and (about) Coach Broadous,” Appleton says. “It perked my interest. I’m an older guy, so I probably don’t have the same goals as the other guys. I just wanted to be involved and play some basketball. I felt I could contribute.”

Hines and Appleton were each key contributors on the 2013-14 PCC team that shocked the Northwest community college basketball scene. Two years after an 0-24 campaign, the Panthers reached the 16-team NWAACC Championships for the first time in the program’s 30-year history. Then they ran through four straight opponents at Kennewick, beating Pierce (Wash.) 92-86 last Tuesday for the title.

Both Hines and Appleton termed the experience as “surreal.”

“Running out there on that court, with all that energy after we won it was overpowering,” Hines says. “Climbing that ladder and cutting the nets we were overjoyed, ecstatic.

“To just get to the tournament was something. Then to win it speaks volumes to the players and the coaching staff being really all together.”

“It’s been wonderful to be part of a team again, us growing together as a unit,” Appleton says. “Saying we wanted to do something and hitting the bumps in the road and moving past it and persevering so much fun.”

Hines, a starter most of the season, played sparingly in the NWAACC Championships after missing the final four games of the regular season with a foot injury.

“Anthony did a great job for us all year,” Broadous says. “When I first got the (coaching) position, I was looking for a big man. Anthony was our first signee. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart.”

Appleton was a key player as a sometimes regular and off the bench during both the regular season he was named to the league’s first-team all-defense team and in the NWAACC Championships, where he was honored the tournament’s most inspirational player.

“That award was 100 percent perfect for Carl,” Broadous says. “He was a team captain and an inspiration for us. He’s been through a tremendous amount of life experiences, good and bad a lot of bad over the past eight or nine years. To have overcome all of that, it really is inspiring.

“He’s a real competitor. He loves setting the screens. On any of the key plays, he’d be the one setting the screen for the shooter.”

He's undersized with the bigs, but he never thought twice about it."

"It's easy to move people, but the league's pretty athletic," Appleton says, adding with a laugh, "It's hard to rebound over people when you're down on the ground level. I get a lot of rebounds even though I don't just as high as I used to. I create a lot of chaos down there.

"The commissioner of the NWAACC came up to me after one of the games and said, 'You were the star tonight. You did all the dirty work that nobody sees.' It made me feel really good. Play defense, grab rebounds, dive on the ground -- those are the things I've done to help our team. It was really cool somebody noticed that and that they gave me that award."

Appleton served as a pseudo-coach and counselor, on an off the floor, for the Panthers.

"A lot of times, I wouldn't even have to say things to the players," Broadous says. "He'd remind them of how important it is to take care of business, to be around the right people, to eat the right things, to stay away from drugs and alcohol."

"I've gone through so many trials and tribulations, so many hardships," Appleton says. "I've seen guys on the team moving in certain directions. I give them a counter, let them know that, 'Hey, that might not be the best idea. There might be a different way to go.' I don't party, but I used to. I tell them, 'This is how it started for me. Watch yourself. If you need somebody to talk to, this is an option I have.' "

Says Hines: "We make fun of how old he is. He's good about it. He knows he's ancient compared to us. What he's been through -- he has seen the dark side. He knows what not to do. Good, positive vibes are always coming from him."

A particular project, Appleton says, has been Hines.

"It's cool to be on a team with him and help him make better decisions through this next stage of life," Appleton says.

Appleton says he will observe his second year of sobriety on April 22. He regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“I was immature, behind in a lot of areas,” he says. “I’m so grateful to my family and to my sponsors in AA. They knew I’d made mistakes but didn’t care. They still supported me. It’s amazing how much traction you can make in your life when people give you another chance.”

Appleton, who says his accumulative GPA is 3.3, expects to get his associate of arts degree this summer. He’d love to play more college basketball.

“I want to teach and work in social work,” Appleton says. “I want to be the person I never had when I was young, a person to guide people through and help them not make the mistakes I made.”

Hines, a 4.0 student who will get his AA degree this spring, intends to play college basketball next season and wants to major in biology or pre-med.

“I love psychology, but I like the idea of being a general (medical doctor) or a nurse,” he says. “I like the facet of interacting with people on a daily basis. I love helping people. In a hospital, you can help just being who you are.”

Hines is remorseful for the act that earned him incarceration.

“I wish it hadn’t happened,” he says. “Sometimes I see my friends from high school, who knew the person I assaulted. They have their opinions. It’s embarrassing, but it’s also humbling. I know what I’ve done for myself. There’s no way I can ever change what I did, but I can live my life as a testament to what I’ve become.

“I hate to admit it, but what I’ve been through turned me around from where I was going. I wish there were a different way it could happened instead of taking my teenage years but it helped put me on the right track, got my mind focused.”

Appleton has many of the same feelings. This season with the Panthers has been confirmation that he is making the right decisions now.

“For a long time, I didn’t have strong enough character to point the talents I had in the right direction,” he says. “If this is my last time with (an organized) team, I don’t have to look back with, ‘Should have, could have.’ I get to look back and think, ‘I did.’ I’d leave without any regrets.

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