The NCAA Tournament's Best Students: Portland State's Tyrell Mara

The Canadian forward dishes on everything from his old business to his new ideas.


Tyrell Mara has to be one of the most well-rounded student-athletes competing in this year's NCAA tournament. As a 6-foot-6 forward on Portland State's basketball team, Mara fills whatever role his team needs and does it well. He can rebound and battle with the big guys around the basket or step outside and, with his shooting ability, cause some problems for the little guys on the perimeter.

But off the court is where Mara does the most damage. He's a video-editing whiz with a nose for business, and he keeps a carry-along journal to document his thoughts and ideas. While he'll have one more year of basketball eligibility after this season because of an injury his sophomore year, the Canadian import has a May graduation in sight, and he's taking 20 credits to fulfill his degree requirements.

What have you done throughout college to keep up with class and make sure you are on top of everything?

Well, there were a couple things that I learned really early on that have shaped how I've approached each class. The first thing I do in every class is shake my professor's hand and introduce myself. Making that personal connection with the professor has helped me in every class I've been in. The first class I ever took, I went up and shook my economics instructor's hand, and he said that it was the first time a student shook his hand on the first day of class. When you do things like that, you create a relationship with the professor and that goes a long way, especially when I have to miss class. What are your days like?

This term, I have a routine. I'm taking 20 credits, so I really have to keep up with work. Every day, I get up at 8 and go to campus. I'll get Starbucks and just sit at one of the tables and do homework. Then, I work out. I have class from noon to 2 and practice from 2 to 4. And I'll just find time to get little bits of work done whenever I can. When you're at Starbucks, how do keep out the noise?

I definitely listen to music. I'm there for a good chunk of time, so I have to have something to help me focus. I also bring my laptop with me, so I usually chat with my mom [ in Canada] on [AOL Instant Messenger]. A few other players have said music with lyrics distracts them when they're reading. Do you listen to classical and instrumental music?

I don't know—I'm all over the place. I listen to a lot of acoustic and relaxing music. Words don't really bother me. I read that y ou own your own video-editing company. What does that job entail?

Well, I did it for six years in high school. I haven't been able to do much with it during college because of schoolwork and basketball, but it's definitely something I enjoy doing. Did it ever interfere with hoops and school?

Actually, it was the exact opposite. It was a great tool for basketball because—being from Canada—there isn't a lot of college and university exposure [to recruiters] for the American schools. Actually, how I started doing it was when my mom and I put together a tape for my recruiting. We went back through some tape of me playing and made a video. We actually got a lot of nice feedback from some of the coaches who got a tape. Do you think that's the career path you'd like to take when you get out of school?

I think it's kind of a hobby. I want to be more working hands-on with people. So, if video editing isn't necessarily what you'd like to do after college, what do you want to do when you graduate?

Well, I've been inspired recently by my mother, who is a business consultant. She works with smaller groups of entrepreneurs. I think that—working with really small groups of entrepreneurs—is something I could do. I've also always loved coaching basketball. Switching gears a little bit...I saw that you really enjoy reading in your spare time. What's the best book you've ever read?

Wow. That's not an easy one. The first couple that come to mind . . . I just read Outliers : The Story of Success [by Malcolm Gladwell]. Dating back a little bit— West of Jesus : Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief, which is kind of a surfing book. It deals with how the mind works as far as spirituality. It was really interesting.