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Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 10/18/14

Via Larry Brown Sports:

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.

Photo via Geneva.edu

5 Comments:
  • Way to go Brian. Went back to college when I was 35.

    Look forward to seeing him in March Madness.
  • may god bless you my brother Im 51 years old and considering a comeback to try out for an NBA team who needs a strong back up shooting guard at 6'2
  • first of all, i'm a University of Kentucky fan. that said, way back in 1988, in what was Eddie Sutton's best year as a U K coach by far, and after U K missed the final four by one point in the 4th game against LSU, the seniors and a team of old timers toured the state to give fans from everywhere a chance to see real live U K players.
    on the day of the exhibition, Goose Givens was out front selling programs. He was an integral part of Joe B's 1978 champs. And there were former U K players everywhere, literally. that was the reason i was there.
    well, to tell the truth i was there to meet one player in particular, former U K guard Louie Dampier. Louie was one of Rupps Runts, but that wasn't where i knew him from. i knew him from his days in the American Basketball Association and the Kentucky Colonels. and Louie was one of the best from beyond the three-point arc in that now-defunct league.
    again, i'm from the outback and i had to tune in to WHAS, the Louisville 50,000 watt am station to hear the Colonel games. i sweated out so many Colonel games and i was going to see Louie and get his autograph.
    thing was, Louie was 43 years old. yes, he had a long and distinguished pro career, but 43, man, c'mon, how you gonna run with players who are, well, 20 some years younger?
    but Louie did. he came in late, but he played like his heart was in it. and he played with that year's seniors and outplayed a lot of his younger teammates.
    btw, i had a lot of autographs, but i had to wait in the gym until almost everyone was gone before Louie even came out. but i had too much time invested in him to let him get away from me now. so i waited and when he came out of the locker room, i buttonholed him and told him all about the games on WHAS and how he was still my favorite all-time Colonel and then asked him very nicely for his autograph.
    the man never cracked a smile or moved one way or another, and you could tell he wanted nothing more than to get away from this fanatic, but he did give me his autograph, and i still have my program and his autograph, lo,these 24 years later. and mine is the hand that shook the hand of Louie Dampier that day, a man who showed as well as anyone that age does not define heart.
  • And you are very windy.
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