By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
When Brian Ranier was playing ball on the streets of Brooklyn, he never dreamed that his career would take him to Omaha of all places.
“I had heard of Omaha, and Nebraska, but I had no idea where it’s at,” Ranier said. “I figured it had to be way north since I know it snows a lot there.”
Ranier, a senior from St. Michael’s Academy in New York City, was voted a McDonald’s All-American for high school basketball. Yet, despite the accolades, Ranier has somehow garnered little attention from some of college basketball’s most storied programs.
Enter UNO coach Derrin Hansen. A friend of a friend in the coaching ranks told Hansen about Ranier and Hansen quickly offered the Brooklyn-native a full scholarship.
While most players might have ignored the offer from a school entering just its second season of Division I basketball, Ranier jumped at the chance. So what’s the catch?
Watching tape of Ranier and looking at his numbers certainly doesn’t offer any clues. In his senior season alone, Ranier averaged 36.3 points per game, piled up 22 double-doubles and led St. Michael’s to the state championship.
Before Ranier arrives on campus for training later this summer, I took the opportunity to interview Hansen’s newest Mav and try to solve the mystery. Let’s just say Ranier brings a lot to the table…and he watches a lot of movies.
The Gateway: So Brian, tell us a little about yourself. A lot of NBA players learned their game and honed their skills on the courts of New York City. But most fans would be surprised that even though your stats point to you being a top recruit, you haven’t received the same attention as other native New York ballers.
Brian Ranier: Yeah man, you see, I just bring a different perspective than they expect. All the big time programs and big time coaches…they ain’t never met anyone like me.
Gateway: Could you expand on that a little bit?
Ranier: Well, you see, I got this perspective growing up. My dad was very abusive to my mom and eventually it was just her and me. When I was very young there was an alien in my closet who ate my Reese’s Pieces and made long-distance phone calls. Sometimes we had to get away by flying on my bicycle.
Gateway: That sounds like the movie “E.T.”
Ranier: Oh, come on now man, don’t be coming up in here with your small-town Nebraska ways telling me what it’s like to grow up on the mean streets of Brooklyn.
Gateway: You’re right. I apologize, please continue.
Ranier: Sh#t, man. You don’t know, you definitely don’t know. And that wasn’t the worst of it. When I was eight I woke up one morning and my entire family was gone. After awhile I figured out they weren’t coming back so I had to buy my own groceries and fight off two delightful but incapable burglars.
Gateway: What? I think you might be thinking of “Home Alone.”
Ranier: Are you fu#$ing kidding me? I’m here telling you about my life and you have the balls to sit there and tell me what happened to me?
Gateway: Well it just sounds like you’re referencing a lot of-
Ranier: I know what I said! And I know what I lived! Don’t be judging who I am and where I come from.
Gateway: Ok, ok, let’s just…move on to another topic. Was basketball always your first love?
Ranier: No, man, it started out as fishing.
Gateway: Really? Fishing? That’s pretty odd for an inner-city kid from Brooklyn.
Ranier: Yeah, see, my uncle had this place by the ocean in Massachusetts, and I’d spend each summer there. He was a longshoreman and one summer he had to volunteer his services to get rid of this huge shark. I went out with him and this ocean scientist to track it down, but the shark destroyed our boat and killed my uncle. I took care of it but me and the scientist dude had to paddle back to shore.
Gateway: Ok, that’s clearly the plot of “Jaws.”
Ranier: Oh, “Jaws,” huh? Never heard of it. You ever seen a grown man get eaten alive by a 20-foot shark? I’ll bet they ain’t got those in Nebraska, country boy.
Gateway: No, they sure don’t, so you won’t have to worry about falling victim to the same fate as your uncle. Tell me about some of your other talents, besides basketball, that you’ll be bringing to UNO.
Ranier: Well, I’m not the greatest student, but I’ve started to come around. I used to work as a janitor at my high school solving difficult math problems that a teacher would put on a chalkboard outside his classroom. Eventually, he put me in touch with his psychologist friend and I started to open up. I started to improve as a student and even started dating giant-headed Minnie Driver.
Gateway: “Good Will Hunting.”
Ranier: I once went on spring break with a friend and ended up at a party at this rich guy’s house. The rich guy was dead, but nobody knew so we stayed at his house all week and took his corpse with us everywhere we went wearing sunglasses so no one knew he was dead.
Gateway: “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
Ranier: Yeah, well, after a pickup game at a neighborhood court, I once found this ring that had been lost for thousands of years. Pretty soon four midgets, a wizard and me are climbing mountains and going in caves to try and get rid of this thing.
Gateway: Ok, that’s “Lord of the Rings.” Now you’re not even trying.
Ranier: Man, this is street! You don’t know shi%t about becoming a player on the neighborhood courts of Brooklyn.
Gateway: It looks like I have a lot to learn. We can’t wait for you to bring some of that life experience to Omaha.
Ranier: Yeah, man, I’ll see you this summer. I’ll bring my half-brother Raymond and he can show you how to count a whole jar full of tooth picks just by dropping them on the floor.
Gateway: Can’t wait, we’ll see you then.