No Slim Pickings for Pickens

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The way he sees it, Tom Pickens III has, fittingly, three options in life, each as varied and different as the other.

The senior at Lancaster Desert Christian High wants to play in the NBA or, if he can't get there with his 5-foot-10 stature, get a degree in business.

Then there's the third option, the one that tugs harder at him every day.

He could follow in the footsteps of his father and become a pastor, a pursuit he begins this fall at the Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Pickens plans to study there for two years, acting on instincts he has felt since he was young.

"I was born into the church," said Pickens, who has given sermons to Christian youth groups and at religious conventions. "I don't get really nervous about speaking the word of God at a congregation setting. I love speaking to adults and youth."

His father, Tom Pickens, founded the Antelope Valley Christian Center in Lancaster and preaches at churches throughout the nation.

Tom Pickens realized his son could be on a similar career path a couple years ago.

"When I'd go to church, Tommy would start to do some of the same things I was doing," he said. "He'd wear similar shoes, shirts and ties."

With his father's blessing, Pickens even addressed the congregation on a couple occasions.

"He's been pretty consistent with his [faith] for some time now," Tom Pickens said.

Tommy Pickens will conclude his local basketball career tonight at 7 o'clock in the small schools senior all-star game at Taft High.

He averaged 12 points and six assists for Desert Christian and will play at Rhema, hoping to keep alive his dream of playing professionally.

If that doesn't work, Pickens said he'd consider getting a business degree or, of course, continuing with his religious studies.

Tom Pickens said he won't channel his son one way or the other.

"Every pastor would like to see his son follow in the ministry, but that's something you can't force him to do because he'd be doing it for you," he said.

"I've never put the ministry before him; God will deal with him on that."

Pickens will play for the East all-star team, which also includes Casey Markovic of Bell-Jeff, Derek Jones of Providence and Tony McFadden of Montclair Prep.

McFadden is a talented 6-3 guard who played less than 10 games in his career at Montclair Prep because of academic ineligibility and injuries.

Top players for the West are Crespi's Andrew Moore and Kingsley Anyanwu, who averaged 17.1 and 15.6 points in leading the Celts to the Southern Section Division IV-AA championship.

Albert Soria, who averaged 16.1 points and 4.4 assists for Santa Clara, will also play for the West.

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