Brian Rice passed up the opportunity to play Division-II basketball 25 years ago when he decided to join the Navy. He was a promising high school player with a passion for hoops, but Rice felt he wasn’t “mature” enough to attend college. Now 43 years old and retired from the military, the Geneva College walk-on has decided it is never too late.
That’s right, Rice plays basketball for the Geneva (Pa.) College Golden Tornadoes, where he averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds during his first five games against opponents that are less than half his age.
“I have to ice my knees now and again and sometimes I’ll go over to the ‘Y’ and get in the Jacuzzi but I’ve been able to handle the physical part of this,” Rice told the Beaver County Times. “I’m 43 but I don’t feel 43. I feel a lot younger than that.”
Rice’s high school coach, New Castle’s Ralph Blundo, spoke with Geneva coach Jeff Santarsiero and insisted that they give Rice a chance even though he is a full 25 years older than the average player Santarsiero is used to evaluating.
“Ralph 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.”
Apparently Blundo was not crazy. The 6-foot-2 Rice said there were very few days in the Navy where he didn’t play basketball, so it’s no surprise his skills have remained sharp after all these years. However, one of the main reasons for his desire to return was to once again be a part of a team.
“I also wanted to continue to enjoy that camaraderie you have with your teammates,” Rice explained. “That’s meant a lot to me. There is obviously an age difference but these guys have accepted me as a teammate and appreciate the life’s experiences that I have. I’m having a lot of fun with them.”
Santarsiero has not ruled out the possibility of Rice becoming a more significant part of Geneva’s rotation as the season rolls on. Like the boxer who made his professional debut at age 52 or the goalie who was signed as a professional backup after he surpassed the half-century mark, we can do nothing but tip our cap to people like Rice. If I can reach the rim of a 10-foot hoop with a Nerf ball when I’m in my 40s, I’ll consider that an accomplishment.Google+