One thing's for sure about this year's Geneva (Pa.) College basketball team: It won't lack experience.
That's because the Golden Tornadoes feature 43-year-old Brian Rice, a Navy veteran who enrolled in the school's completion degree program and walked on to the basketball team.
"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 was once a promising high school player, and he had offers to play Division II basketball, but he decided instead to join the Navy. Now, 25 years later, Rice is finally in college and majoring in community ministry.
His high school coach, Ralph Blundo, mentioned the possibility of Rice joining the hoops squad to Geneva's coach, Jeff Santarsiero. Understandably, Santarsiero was a little skeptical at first.
"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 told the Beaver County Times. "Ralph assured me he was in great shape and I should at least meet with him."
Rice assured skeptics that he's not on the team as a "charity case," and that he will actually contribute. In fact, in Geneva's first five games Rice played 23 minutes and averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds.
“He served our country for 25 years," Santarsiero told the New Castle News. "His personality and drive, the fact he wants to go back to school and finish his degree shows how serious he is.”
Rice says there was hardly a day during his service that he didn't play basketball, so his game was still sharp when he enrolled at Geneva. Plus, as a licensed minister and ordained elder, Rice has plenty of mentorship experience.
His teammates, he says, has been quick to take him in.
"There is obviously an age difference, but these guys have accepted me as a teammate and appreciate the life's experiences that I have," Rice said. "I'm having a lot of fun with them."