As a teenager Brian Rice made the decision to enlist in the United States Navy, turning down offers from Division II schools due to the fact that he didn’t feel ready for college.
A quarter century later Rice, who is now an ordained nondenominational minister, is taking advantage of not only Geneva College’s (Division III program) completion degree program but also the basketball talent that landed him scholarship offers as a teenager.
More than 24 years in the service gave Rice the discipline he felt was missing from his life when he enlisted, and it also afforded him the opportunity to travel the world. One would think that his experiences would be valuable to the Geneva program, and the 6-2 guard showed up in great physical condition.
“[New Castle HS head coach] Ralph [Blundo] is telling me this guy is 43 years old and wants to play college basketball and I’m thinking, ‘what are the chances a 43-year-old man is going to be able to play on the college level?'” Santarsiero said. “Ralph assured me he was in great shape and I should at least meet with him.”
Santarsiero was impressed with Rice right away. Not only is the 6-foot-2 Rice a physical specimen who looks younger than his age but he has an engaging personality that enables him to relate to a roster full of teammates who are all young enough to be his son.
The Golden Tornadoes have played eight games so far, most recently falling 93-50 at Youngstown State on Thursday night, and are still in search of their first win of the season. Rice has played in all eight games, averaging 6.4 minutes, 1.8 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest.
Rice cited his desire to continue playing basketball and the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team as reasons for joining the team, and Geneva head coach Jeff Santarsiero believes that Rice can earn even more playing time as the season wears on.
“He’s still learning the college game and what we do and it’s still early in the season,” Santarsiero said. “He’s getting better every day and he’s proving he can play at the college level. It takes time, though, and the fact of the matter is that he is a freshman.”
In Geneva’s loss to Youngstown State Rice played 15 minutes, finishing with six points and three rebounds. While Rice matched his career high in rebounds the six points are the most he’s scored in a game.
It’s one thing for an older basketball player to join a team but another to go out and earn playing time. After posting his best numbers of the season against a Division I opponent, it will be interesting to see how Rice progresses throughout the course of the season.
Photo credit: Geneva College
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.