Kerusch ready to put on a show in final season

Sergio Kerusch grew up playing basketball in the dirty parks and run down basketball courts of what he calls the “worst parts” of Memphis, Tenn. “It’s places like this where my basketball dreams began,” said Kerusch, who enters his senior season at WKU.

Zach Greenwell

Senior forward Sergio Kerusch said he felt at home the first time he took the stage for an audition.

He was nine years old, trying to get into an acting camp that was for children ages 11 and up.

At the urging of his mother, Kerusch still decided to try out, performing a scene from “Old Yeller.” The judges quickly accepted him.

“I had them in there dying,” Kerusch said. “They were all crying. It was so funny.”

The Memphis, Tenn., native has craved the limelight ever since.

School districting had him scheduled to attend Northside High School in Memphis, but he decided to go to Overton High School, a performing arts school.

“It was the lights and the attention that took over me,” he said. “I was like, ‘I can do this forever. I can have people looking at me forever.’”

Despite winning several state acting awards for both scripted scenes and improvisational skits, Kersuch said he started to feel the pressure to lean more toward basketball as he got older.

“It was a whole different circle,” he said. “At that time, I wanted to be popular and be the ‘it’ kid. Everyone wants to have a good social life in high school.”

That didn’t stop him from finding the time to enjoy both sports and acting. He said he got a lot of odd looks during one high school basketball game when he showed up with some mime makeup still on his face from an acting exercise.

Senior forward Juan Pattillo said Kerusch isn’t one to shy away from attention.

“Serge is a character. He might be a cartoon character,” Pattillo said. “He’s all-the-way animated. He wakes up hyper.”

Kerusch immediately won over WKU fans with his big personality when he arrived as a sophomore junior-college transfer two years ago.

He’s averaged almost 13 points per game during his time on campus, but Head Coach Ken McDonald said he’s been most proud of the way Kerusch has matured.

He said Kerusch, Pattillo and the rest of the seniors are starting to understand that their college time is running short.

“Serge obviously takes this to another level when he comes out,” McDonald said. “But I’m also seeing him develop into a man and recognize that the sand’s sort of going through the hourglass.”

Kerusch said he knows college isn’t permanent. That’s why he makes the most of events like Friday’s basketball kickoff, Hilltopper Hysteria.

He came out last year to a Michael Jackson-themed introduction, complete with a single glove and moonwalk.

After going back and forth on a theme for this season, Kerusch said on Wednesday that he’s decided to go with “Transformers.”

Is that a bit over the top? Not to Kerusch, who said he uses activities like this as a release for his creative energy.

“In high school, it wasn’t cool to be an actor,” he said. “I kind of fell to the pressure. When I come out to things like Hysteria or I rile up the crowd, I don’t do it for attention.

“I do it because it’s trapped inside of me, and I want to get it out.”

Kerusch said he hopes one day he can return to acting. He still wants to play professional basketball, but he said he wants to be the “first good NBA actor.”

But for now, Kerusch gets his share of dramatics on the hardwood.

“All you’re doing on the court is acting,” he said. “You take a charge, and you throw back your head and arms and scream. You’re selling calls, and you’re acting.”

Pattillo said it’s nice to have an “energy guy” like Kerusch, although he can be a bit much at times.

“If you’ve been around Serge, you can tell he wants to play all the time,” Pattillo said. “I don’t know if he can flip that switch. I don’t even know if there is a switch.”

Kerusch said he can’t apologize for his hyperactivity. He hasn’t been able to sit still since childhood, when his mom first thrust him into things like Tae Kwon Do and acting.

He said he gets the most satisfaction from “forcing emotion” from people, whether it’s joy or sadness.

But when it comes to basketball, he’d rather make people happy.

“When a fan jumps up and raises their hands to the air, it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” he said.