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November 8, 2012

Photos, Story: At age 43, former ‘Canes’ star takes on college — and basketball

NEW CASTLE — Brian Rice wasn’t ready for college 25 years ago, opting instead for a stint in the Navy.

“I thought I’d do four years to get more discipline and save some money,” said the 1987 graduate of New Castle High School.

But his first tour of duty evolved into a military career that lasted a quarter century and took him to 60 countries on six continents.

As for college, he’s ready now.

Already a student in the adult degree completion program, studying community ministry at Geneva College, the former Red Hurricane basketball star also has decided to pursue another young man’s dream. At age 43, Brian will become the most senior junior in Golden Tornadoes’ basketball history when he suits up for the Nov. 16 opener in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff tournament vs. Penn State Fayette.

Rice learned following tryouts recently that he was one of two walk-ons selected by coach Jeff Santarsiero.

Attending workouts with Geneva players for a month, Rice has already forged some strong relationships with his new teammates, who are young enough to be his sons. Rice’s 22-year-old daughter, Brittany, is a senior at Penn State-Behrend.

NO AGE LIMIT

Santarsiero, 53, said there’s no age limit for playing Division III basketball. Players, aged 25 and 26, have tried out in the past.

“When you hear about a 43-year old wanting to play college basketball, you have some questions,” Santarsiero said.

“Are you sure?” is the first thing Santarsiero wanted to know from Rice.

“He served our country for 25 years. His personality and drive, the fact he wants to go back to school and finish his degree shows how serious he is.”

Santarsiero said Rice competed well during the initial practices. “We’ll just have to see if his knees are going to hold up. He’s got to ice them after every practice.”

“I’m not putting him on the team as a charity case,” Santarsiero said.

In high school Rice was 6-foot-2, 165-pound shooting guard. Flash forward 25 years and Rice is a 6-2, 200-pound versatile athlete, who believes he can contribute at the 1, 2 or 3 spots for the Golden Tornadoes.

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