ARLINGTON, Va – Keith Rendleman, buried in the depths of the CAA standings, is one of the nation’s best kept secrets.
A 6-foot-8, 220 pound pogo stick — his head coach at UNC-Wilmington, Buzz Peterson, said he once reached 12-feet, one-inch when testing his max-jump — Rendleman averaged 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Seahawks last season, one of just 22 players nationally to average a double-double. You can probably understand why, then, Rendleman evokes comparisons with former mid-major rebounding machine.
They both even have long hair.
You should also be able to understand why, when UNCW’s APR scores came back and the Seahawks were hit with the news that they wouldn’t be allowed to play in the NCAA tournament this season, some bigger schools came-a-callin’. Since Rendleman’s senior season was to be played under a postseason ban, he was allowed to transfer anywhere in the country without sitting out the mandatory one season.
Who wouldn’t want to add a rebounding machine whose motor never stops running?
And why would Rendleman turn down the chance to make the jump to a bigger school — Peterson said ACC, Big East and SEC schools inquired — with an opportunity to make one final run at an NCAA tournament big on the line?
Well, actually it’s quite simple.
“He likes the beach,” Peterson said with what can only be described as a relieved chuckle. “He loves to go down there a lot. When practice is over with, he’s gone.”
UNCW, known as “the state’s coastal universtiy”, is the perfect place for a beach bum to go to school, as the campus is just a couple of miles from Wrightsville Beach.
“[The beach] was one of the main reasons I came here,” Rendleman said. “I hadn’t really been that much before my freshman year, but when I got here? I like to get out there and play in the water all the time.”
As much appeal as bikinis, waves and beach football has for a college student, there was much more that went into Rendleman’s decision than proximity to the water. UNCW isn’t the only school close to the ocean. He has friends on campus. He has fans in and around town. His teammates are his family. His coaches have his back. Missing out on the postseason will be tough, but for Rendleman, missing out on a final chance to play college ball with the same guys he’s spent the past three years with was unimaginable.
“It’s kind of like my home, so I’m not ready to go anywhere else,” he said.
It’s refreshing, really. At times, it almost seems as if the one-and-done era has made way for the transfer era, as key players are seemingly bouncing from team to team more than ever. Rendleman, however, values loyalty, both from and for his coaching staff and the rest of his team. What’s more, he doesn’t seem to understand why the decision that he made is noteworthy.
“A lot of people are thanking me for staying and talking about how loyal I am and stuff, but it’s just part of my personality,” he said. “A lot of people thought I was going to do something else, and I already made up my mind that I was going to try and stay and just play here. I didn’t see it as as big of a deal as everyone else, but I’m just thankful for having everyone support me behind it.”
Part of the reason that Rendleman feels indebted to the university is that the school was one of the only ones that offered him a scholarship for basketball. He was a much more highly-regarded football prospect as a high schooler in rural, northwest North Carolina. He caught 15 touchdowns as a senior. Some major programs were on his tail, but Rendleman knew hoops was his true love.
So Rendleman wound up at UNCW. And it’s why he’ll finish up at UNCW as well, playing out what is more or less a meaningless season for the chance to win the CAA’s regular season title and bring the CAA player of the year trophy back to Wilmington “because we haven’t had that in a while”.
He’s back for no reason other than the fact that he simply enjoys where he goes to college.
Well, that, and the opportunity to become a flag football legend.
“Our guys say all the time, ‘Coach, you should see him throw a football,'” Peterson said. “It’s incredible how far he can throw it. Unbelievable athlete. He goes to the beach, he’s whipping that thing 70 yards.”