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    Then & Now: Jose Ramos

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    Then & Now: Jose Ramos

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy Husker Hoops Central)

    Jose%20Ramos.jpgJose

    Ramos played for Nebraska during the 1990-1991

    season, and helped lead the #9 Huskers to a record of

    26-8.  

    A 6'2"

    point guard, Ramos came to Nebraska after playing a

    season at the University of Florida, and joined Keith

    Moody in backing up Clifford Scales.

    Ramos,

    who until today hasn't publicly talked about his times

    at Nebraska since leaving, is our latest guest in this

    Sunday's edition of "Then & Now".

    HHC: Thanks for

    joining us. It was great to see you last month at the

    1990-1991 reunion.

    JR:

    Yeah, I was quite surprised that I got a phone call from

    you and that you found me, but I’m glad you did, because

    it was great to get back. I hadn’t heard from these guys

    since I left Nebraska. Actually, it was the Big 8

    Tournament in Kansas City. So, I was kind of glad I was

    found and able to come back!

    HHC: You were a three-year starter at

    Miami High, and were a first-team All-Florida selection

    as a senior (1988) after averaging 20 points and 9

    assists per game. For your efforts, you won Gatorade

    Player of the Year honors for the Southern region,

    and also finished 5th in the voting for Florida's 1988

    "Mr. Basketball" award. You ended up at the University

    of Florida, but who else recruited you out of high

    school?

    JR:

    As you know, we were very successful in high school. You

    had all the coaches there, with everybody from NC State

    to Duke, North Carolina to Florida State, and all the

    ACC schools. But, I only took one recruiting visit, and

    that was to Florida, which was the school I wanted to go

    to growing up.

    Some

    other schools that were interested were Villanova, and

    NC State made a big push with Jim Valvano, whom it was

    great to meet.  Those were the only guys that came into

    the gym and talked with me besides Florida, and I sat

    down and contemplated going on a recruiting visit to

    more schools. But, it never materialized, and I just

    ended up going to Florida.

    HHC: So

    Nebraska wasn't in the picture at all?

    JR: No, not at all. I just knew Nebraska

    only because of football, actually.

    Ironically, in high school, we went to a Nike

    All-American Camp in Princeton, New Jersey, and I met

    Beau Reid out there. He was a counselor out there.

    (Laughs) Ask him about that and see if he remembers.

    He was at

    Nike, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to this camp,

    but it was just starting to get off when I was in high

    school. Your Nike, Adidas, and all these camps that are

    showcased now began then.

    You had

    guys like Alonzo Mourning, Chris Jackson, and Shawn Kemp

    there, and boy, was it just incredible. A skinny young

    Shawn Kemp. Aw man, he was 6’10” back then, but nothing

    more than 200 pounds, if that. But gosh, when I first

    got into the gym, he was actually playing already, and

    this guy was rebounding the ball, going coast to coast

    by himself, and just playing with guys before dunking.

    And I was like, “Who the hell is this guy?” Finally, we

    all got together and we ended up knowing who he was, but

    it was just fun seeing some of these guys.

    Alonzo

    was another guy where all he did was block shots, and we

    didn’t think he’d be so offensive minded when he got in

    the league, but he improved a whole lot. It’s funny

    because in high school, our team played on the national

    level, so we played against everybody that’s either in

    the pros now or went to high major Division I.

    But yeah,

    Beau was a counselor, because they used to bring a lot

    of college players to come and work the camp in the

    summer with the high school kids.

    HHC: Speaking of high school, you went to

    the same school as of former Husker fullback Omar Soto.

    Did he later play a role in you coming to Lincoln?

    JR: Well, he was a football player and a

    fullback, and a pretty good football player. But our

    football program wasn’t as big as our basketball. But I

    knew who he was, and actually when I first came to

    Lincoln, he kind of found out that I was coming and went

    over there, and that’s where I met Tom Osborne. So, it

    was kind of neat to see him there, and basically he was

    like the only Latin guy in the college at the time

    (Laughs). He was the only guy that spoke Spanish there,

    nobody else.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Pretty diverse school there at UNL, huh?

    JR:

    Yeah, I know right (Laughs).

    HHC: As a freshman at Florida in 1988-1989 for

    Coach Norm Sloan, you started 10 of the first 12 games

    before leaving the team for personal reasons. What did

    that season teach you?

    JR: Well, I didn’t grow up in an athletic

    family like a lot of guys that I got to meet later on,

    whose father either played college ball or were a coach.

    I come from a family where my father owned a furniture

    business, middle class family, my Mother didn’t work,

    and I had two brothers and a sister, and we played a lot

    of sports around the house. My brother was very

    athletic, and funny story, he played high school

    football, and at the time went to Christopher Columbus

    (High School). Alonzo Highsmith, who later played for

    the Houston Oilers, was one of the running backs, and my

    brother went ahead and got nailed by a safety, and never

    finished his high school football days (Laughs).

    So,

    nobody in my family ever played sports, and I think now

    that I went through college that its important to have

    someone who’s either been through high school, college,

    or professional sports, because they can guide you in

    the right direction, and I never had that. So when I

    went to Florida, it was a great experience, although in

    hindsight, I wish I would have taken all my visits, and

    probably would have chosen a different school or a

    little different path, but I was happy there.

    The

    players were great, because I either played with them in

    high school or in AAU. My year there, I played with

    Dwayne Schintzius, the 7’2” player, and Livingston

    Chapman, who was freshman of the year, diaper dandy, he

    was the whole nine, and then he had a knee injury and

    really didn’t get to play anywhere. But, he had a great

    college career.

    HHC: 1989-1990 found you at Central

    Florida Community College, and you averaged 16.2 PPG and

    6.4 APG while also leading the team in assists (210) and

    steals (101). You played for former Wichita State and

    Illinois State coach Gene Smithson. What did he teach

    you?

    JR: Gene was a guy that also coached a lot

    of great players at Wichita State. Antoine Carr, Cliff

    Levingston, and Xavier McDaniel. Bottom line, he ran

    into a situation at Wichita State, and came down to

    central Florida, and he was a guy that as soon as I left

    Florida, he was the first one to call me, and he was

    starting up a great program and I was very fortunate

    that in all the stops I had in college, from four years

    to four different colleges, to have such great coaches

    like Gene.

    I thrived

    at Central because it was a small little town, and the

    campus was small. I lived right by campus, which was

    great, and I concentrated on class and ball all year,

    and had a great team with some good players, including

    Rivera, and I can’t remember his last name, but he ended

    up at UTEP and played point guard for Don Haskins.

    While I

    was at Central, I came across Coach (Danny) Nee and

    Coach (Lynn) Mitchem, because I was all set to go to

    Florida State, but then changed my mind.

    That’s a

    funny story because that team at Florida State was

    loaded but needed a point guard. They had Bob Sura, Doug

    Edwards, Sam Cassell, and I went over there and visited

    Coach Pat Kennedy and Associate Head Coach David

    Zimeroth, and they knew me well from high school. I was

    all set going there, and then a couple of days before

    signing, that’s when Coach Nee and Lynn Mitchem came

    down, and I remember getting a phone call from Gene

    Smithson telling me they had coaches from Nebraska there

    who he’d met at the Final Four.

    At the

    Final Four, Danny had told him, “Hey, I’m looking for a

    point guard,” so they came in to take a shot at me and

    try to convince me (to come to Nebraska) within a couple

    of days.

    Believe

    it or not, I did like Danny. He was very personable when

    he had to be. He had a good personality, and was a city

    guy. He fit in with me, spoke well, had great ideas, was

    motivated, and then Lynn Mitchem was his sidekick, and

    he did a great job of acting like your buddy and was

    “one of the guys” since he was a former player. I

    related to him very well, and I remember we all went out

    to dinner with my junior college president, Danny, Lynn,

    and myself, and he convinced me by saying, “Hey listen,

    I’ve got a very good team coming in. We didn’t have a

    great year, but I think we have the pieces in the right

    place and all I really need is a point guard.”

    He

    already had (Keith) Moody there, but wasn’t too sold on

    him. To make a long story short, I went and visited with

    Danny in Lincoln, and he pulled out all the stops.

    I walked

    into the gym and he’s got a tape playing with 15,000

    people screaming, has the introduction, etc. Back then,

    when one “pulled out the stops”, you walked into the

    arena, and you had your jersey with name and number, and

    over the loud speaker, you being introduced. So he was

    nice, and I liked the facility, people, and the players

    there.

    He just

    worked me those couple of days. We went out to dinner,

    and for some reason, I just fell in love with the place

    and the people. And again, the Big Eight Conference was

    great, and I told him I was coming, and remember coming

    back and getting the call from Coach Zimeroth at Florida

    State, who told me, “Hey, I heard your going to

    Nebraska?!?” And I said, “Coach, I’m sorry man.” And

    anyone who knows me knows that I don‘t play around a

    lot, and I was always brutally honest. And I just told

    him flat out that I liked the place and coach, and

    basically I didn’t want to go ahead and come to Florida

    State, and I’m going to go to Nebraska. He says “big

    mistake.”

    (Laughs)

    And sure, in hindsight, I was successful, and I never

    doubt myself in the decisions I make, even if they are

    bad, which I’ve made a lot of in my life. But, they go

    into the Sweet 16 or almost Final Four with that team,

    but they went ahead and picked up a pretty good point

    guard named Charlie Ward (Laughs). That chump ended up

    being like player of the year and got drafted in the

    first round and made millions of dollars.

    HHC: So you’re

    saying he owes you a cut? (Laughs)

    JR:

    Yeah right, huh! (Laughs) I should call him and tell him

    he owes me a little stipend from that since he may have

    been stuck to football?

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Most definitely! Hey, what was the perception of both

    Lincoln, Nebraska, and Nebraska basketball, to a kid

    from Miami, Florida?

    JR: First of all, I had never heard of the

    basketball program until I got there. Football was

    always the premiere sport, but I was always the kind of

    guy that liked challenges. I liked being different, and

    people that know me know that’s the way I am. I always

    fight against the current, so I chose Nebraska and

    thought I could help.

    One thing

    that people can knock me for is going to four different

    schools, and really, I didn’t have the successful

    college career that I think I should have had if I would

    have stayed at one institution. But I’ll tell you this,

    no matter what school I went to, I always contributed

    and was a winner. I was never on a losing team. And I

    know people compare and say how can you turn one year of

    losing around (1989-1990) and into the best year in

    school history (1990-1991)? And I really think it wasn’t

    a magical year, but he put the right pieces together,

    and when I got there, you had a lot of tough players.

    One of

    the toughest guys there was Beau Reid, and I can relate

    to guys like that, because that’s my upbringing. I’m not

    used to losing, and never lost. And, to be quite honest

    with you, I got there and they said they’d been 10-18,

    and I couldn’t fathom that. My mentality was that I

    couldn’t stand that.

    I was a

    hard-nosed player, and I didn’t take crap from anyone,

    no matter who it was, even a friend like Anthony Peeler

    (Missouri). I was an old school player who took things

    personally, which is not what it’s like now, where you

    let a guy stand in and get 40 or 50 points.

    Back in

    the day, that guy wasn’t going to go off and get that

    career high against us. He was going to get fouled hard,

    and he was going to know that when he came in there, he

    was going to get nailed and take shots if he got hot. He

    had something coming, and wasn’t getting it against us.

    Anyway,

    when I got to Nebraska, I practiced from day one, even

    if I couldn’t play off the bat, and guys knew that I

    wasn’t a selfish player. I looked to run, played with a

    lot of talented and athletic guys, and that’s what I

    expected out of the guys. I never judged any of them,

    whether it be Rich King or Eric Piatkowski, and instead

    just got in there and didn’t take no crap from nobody,

    not even the coaches. I was there to work and win, and I

    think that rubbed off on a lot of other players who

    didn’t have that cockiness or mentality.

    That year

    though, since I had to sit out the first 12 games, I

    played with the white team in practice, with Bruce

    Chubick, Eric Piatkowski, Chris Cresswell, and guys like

    that. We actually beat the red time the majority of the

    time.

    Actually,

    I felt kind of sorry for Chris Cresswell, because

    confidence is such a big part of being a college

    athlete, which I know even more after I later was an

    assistant coach at Florida International, and I think

    Danny kind of sapped Chris’ confidence by telling him

    not to dribble, and to only spot up. I’m sorry, but you

    just don’t tell guys that kind of crap, so I felt bad

    for Cresswell. He was a deadly shooter man, but it

    wasn’t utilized, I don’t think, when it could have been.

    Meanwhile, Danny never said any negative things to

    Piatkowski, but it was obvious, he was a stud. He had no

    conscience; he would just go in there, and I don’t know

    if he was a freshman that didn’t know much, but he

    played carelessly, and just let it go anytime he had an

    open shot. He had good confidence, and he would put the

    ball in the hole.

    HHC: Can you

    give us a funny and colorful Danny Nee story or two for

    our ongoing collection?

    JR: Boy, good old Danny (Laughs). I’ll

    tell you something man, and I’ll tell you a story that a

    lot of guys wrote about after I left, but never got

    right. This is exclusive for you and HHC.

    We went

    to the Big Eight Tournament in Kansas City, and I don’t

    remember exactly what the restaurant was, but we went to

    a steak restaurant. I remember Danny saying, “Oh, we’re

    going to take the team to a great steakhouse. I want you

    to behave, but it’s a great place that you need to go.”

    Bottom

    line, I get there, and I remember my family flew into

    town to see the Big Eight Tournament. I remember I told

    them I’m going to go to dinner, and they went over there

    and sat separate from the team. But the big steak dinner

    that everyone writes about, here’s how it really went.

    If you’ve

    ever ordered filet minion, it’s very well cut, and nice

    and neat. I remember asking if it’s very big, and she

    said, “Well, they’re actually 12 small 6 ounces of

    tender meat.” And I said, “Wow, I’m hungry, I need two

    orders of that.” But before I put those two orders in, I

    went over to coach, and told him, “Hey coach, I have my

    family here, and I’m going to order an extra entrée”

    because that was Danny’s thing, since we had big players

    there and guys ate a lot, and sometimes they would get

    mad since they were paying for it.

    So I told

    coach I was going to get two orders of steak, and he was

    in a good mood and goes, “Aw yeah, sure, go ahead, not a

    problem.” And I said, “If I have to pay extra, my

    parents are here, so I will.”

    So I sat

    down, and when I got there, I got four pieces of meat,

    and I ate all four. But low and behold, for some reason,

    and this is typical Coach Nee, the next day it was our

    breakfast at the hotel, and he never used to address the

    team during breakfast. Breakfast you would go, sit down,

    and shoot the breeze, but he made it a point, which he

    was good at, when he wanted to embarrass you and

    belittle you, he sure knew how to press your buttons.

    And like I said, I was one of those guys where if you

    confronted me, I wouldn’t let you slide. And he goes

    ahead before breakfast and says, “I want to address a

    situation that really bothered me.” And he hadn’t said

    anything to me, and I guess he slept on it and it

    bothered him when he woke up. And he says, “You’ve go to

    understand how to conduct yourself, and with people and

    media around at restaurants, you know how to conduct

    yourself like a human being.” And I was like, “Oh no,

    let’s see where this crap is leaning to, because I have

    a feeling it’s in my direction.”

    Throughout the year, we had had lots of arguments. He

    would tell me stuff like, “You need to relax in

    practice, it seems like you want to beat up some of your

    teammates.” And I said, “You’ve got some of these guys

    that act like prima donnas here, and I think that’s your

    job as a coach to eliminate that. Now I know why you

    guys only won 10 games last year, because they always

    mope and pout, and you curtail to that, and you’re also

    a moper and complainer.”

    Because

    he did, Dave! When one guy would do something, he would

    punish everybody. And instead of him punishing that one

    guy, he made the whole team deal with it. So him and me

    would both go on the offensive and I would tell him

    straight up, “Hey coach, if you wouldn’t baby-sit this

    guy and go off on a tantrum, you wouldn’t have this

    problem.” So we would have some great exchanges.

    But,

    getting back to the breakfast story, he goes ahead and

    tells me, “For example, Jose, I don’t know what came

    acrossed your mind or what were you thinking that you

    could order an extra meal at dinner last night. You went

    ahead and ate four filet minions, you think that’s

    appropriate?”

    I got up,

    got my bowl of cornflakes, and tipped it up, and told

    him, “Hey, typical crap.”

    I kicked

    the door open at the hotel, and that was the last time I

    saw them (my teammates). I got my parents, and they were

    dumbfounded. They gave me a ride back to Lincoln. I

    remember Danny giving me a call at the dorm when I got

    there, and he was one of those guys where if he needed

    you, he’d call you and tell you anything he needed to

    say to get you back. He told me, “Hey, Jose, I’m sorry.

    Hey listen, I know it was wrong for me to tell you that

    in front of everyone.” He realized what he said, but I

    was already in Lincoln. He said, “When we get back, I’ll

    talk to you, and we’ll take it from there, and we’ll try

    to do the best we can here.”

    When they

    came back from the Big Eight Tournament, he pulled me

    into the office, and typical him, he told me, “I don’t

    think its fair for the team that you come back for the

    NCAA game.” And I said, “You gotta be kidding? So,

    you’re going to punish me for some crap about steak

    dinners at one of the most important times for this team

    and program going to the NCAA Tournament, and you don’t

    want me to come along?”

    And he

    told me straight out that he didn’t, but he wanted me to

    think about this and use it as a learning experience for

    next year. So, that’s how that ended, that situation

    right there.

    HHC: So that’s

    what went down, huh? Thanks for sharing that, it seems

    no one really did have the full story. Back to Danny

    though, describe him as a coach.

    JR:

    Well, he was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of guy. Great

    recruiter, who knew what it took to get guys to the

    program, and sold it well. I think recruiting, no matter

    where you are at, is the source, and I’ve been around a

    lot of great coaches, but a lot of these guys get a lot

    of exaggerated credit, because once you start winning,

    you create a legend. Danny did a great job at Nebraska,

    and they hold him as the winningest coach there, but if

    you follow his career, he hasn’t been too successful

    anywhere else, because it goes with recruiting. He had

    guys like Lynn Mitchem who played a huge part in

    recruiting, and that’s a big part of it. It just takes

    the right kind of group of guys, and recruiting kids

    that are winners.

    Like I

    said earlier, I was an assistant coach later at Florida

    International, and would recruit winners; it’s

    contagious.

    HHC: Prior to the 1990-1991 season, there

    were plenty of doubters about Nebraska, since the

    Huskers finished just 10-18 in 1989-1990. Did you have

    any idea of how good you guys would be before the season

    started?

    JR: Well, put it this way. I would do

    interviews before that year, and tell people we’d win

    and be good, and they’d be like, “Whatsup with this guy,

    he is crazy. Doesn’t he know they aren’t good?” But it

    was just that mentality of not taking it from anyone,

    and the team had it.

    So yes, I

    thought we’d be good, because like I said, it was

    contagious, and we had winners.

    HHC: From

    talking to a lot of players on the 1990-1991 team, they

    say the game at #19 Wisconsin-Green Bay on January 2nd,

    1991, was the time when you all knew it was for real. In

    that game, you hit several key free throws in the last

    couple of minutes to seal the win. What do you remember

    about that game?

    JR: Oh man, those were the kind of

    environments I always thrived in, and I think our team

    was coming along and winning a lot of games. Players

    were feeling good about each other, and I know a lot of

    guys talk about it, but we got along so good off the

    court, it was funny.

    We would

    go to the Hewitt Center as a team and eat before

    practice. Or, we’d go in early just to shoot the breeze,

    and like I said, I think that parlays into winning, and

    when we went to Green Bay, that was one of the craziest

    atmospheres that I’ve been in, and I’ve been in a lot.

    That crazy, college, Duke atmosphere type of thing,

    that’s how it was there.

    They were

    selling beer in the stands, and those kids were lit, I

    mean, LIT. There wasn’t a quiet moment that whole game,

    and what I remember, besides hitting free throws, was

    everyone’s emotion. Everyone was beaming,

    confrontational. We’re talking the Coach, the

    Assistants, everyone.

    The

    officials were screwing us majorly, but they (the

    coaches) were fighting and contesting every call, and

    players weren’t backing down. I think the Green Bay

    coach, Dick Bennett, had a son who was a senior at that

    time who played for him and was a great guard.

    But,

    those were the kind of games that I loved being in. I’ve

    always been one of the guys to step up in big games, and

    I hit a lot of free throws, we broke a lot of press that

    game, because they were pressing us all over the place.

    And I remember when I was hitting a couple of key free

    throws, on the back side of me, I have Carl Hayes and

    he’s over on the side by the student section, and he’s

    flipping them off, and these people were going berserk.

    And I’m hitting these free throws, and was already tense

    as it was, and we ended up winning.

    So toward

    the end, the score wasn’t too indicative because of free

    throws (70-63 Nebraska win), but I also remember when

    the buzzer sounded, these fans were LIVID. They were

    throwing beer, everything, we had to run out of there,

    and I think Coach Nee had to get a police escort,

    because he was beaming with a grin from ear to ear.

    When you

    win games like that, it builds character, and that’s why

    you win a lot of games, because guys are used to those

    kinds of battles. Nothing fazes guys when they are in

    that kind of situation.

    HHC: What other games and moments stick

    out with you about that 1990-1991 season?

    JR:

    Beating Kansas at home. I think that was a Final Four

    team, and we went ahead and beat them at home. And oh,

    another thing I remember is that we should have beaten

    those guys at Allen Fieldhouse. I remember it was a damn

    tight game, jam packed, and I go ahead and rip off a

    fast break and go in there, and I don’t remember who the

    guy was, but I made the lay-up, and the guy tried to

    take a charge, and he wasn’t there. And the referee down

    at the bottom, underneath the basket, called a blocking

    foul against the Kansas guy. And I went ahead and made

    the lay-up, which would have been a three-point turn

    around, and I think we would have been up by 2 or 3.

    But I

    remember Roy Williams going LIVID, LIVID, on the

    sideline. And he got so livid that the official at half

    court came running all the way down to the bottom and

    overruled that call, and they called that a charge

    against me. That was one of the biggest travesties I’ve

    ever been associated with in a college game. We should

    have beaten Kansas at Kansas that year. It was bush

    league all the way.

    Besides

    that game, I just got a real big thrill with guys on the

    team that went through that losing season the year

    before. I remember another game when we beat the hell

    out of #13 Oklahoma at Oklahoma (111-99). I think we had

    like 7 to 10 players in double figures that night.

    That was

    just the great part of that year, that all the guys who

    had lost the year before got to redeem themselves and

    win. We beat them all; Missouri, Kansas State, Kansas,

    all the top teams, and I got such an enjoyment of seeing

    both the coaches and teammates going by and making it a

    point to shake Billy Tubbs’ hand, or Norm Stewart’s

    (Laughs).

    Stormin’

    Norman, he was cocky man!

    HHC: (Laughs) From talking to some of your

    other teammates and past Danny Nee players, the

    assistant coaches are always credited with a lot of the

    success. Talk a little bit about Lynn Mitchem, Gary

    Bargen, and Jeff Smith?

    JR: Well, Bargen was another guy who was

    instrumental there and didn’t get enough credit since

    him and Danny didn’t get along too well. He was very

    creative and behind a lot of the “X’s and O’s” in that

    program. But being a former college coach myself, I

    understand what a lot of coaches do these days. For

    example, Leonard Hamilton (Florida State). He’s not a

    great “X’s and O’s” guy, and he knows that. But what he

    is good at is being a phenomenal recruiter.

    So

    Mitchem was the main recruiter, or Nee’s right hand man,

    and Bargen was the “X’s and O’s”.

    Coach

    Smith was a young coach, so he was more of a stat keeper

    and not involved quite as much in the recruiting or “X’s

    and O’s”, but he found a way to keep guys happy by

    getting guys 17 or 18 minutes a game.

    That’s

    how we kept that group of talented guys happy, was by

    getting everyone in there.

    HHC: Do you have any regrets about coming

    to Nebraska, or about how things ended?

    JR: I’ll tell you this Dave. In hindsight,

    I’m an adult now, but I was a kid back then, and I made

    a lot of mistakes. My college career, like I said, and

    if I could have stayed in one place, I could have had a

    great career. But those weren’t the cards that were

    dealt to me, and I don’t blame anyone for the decisions

    I’ve made and what I wanted to do or how I handled

    situations.

    With

    Lincoln, I have absolutely no regrets. Well, the only

    regret was that I wish I would have stayed for my senior

    year, and I think we had a lot of good things going. The

    only thing I have to say about that is that there are

    only three guys who know that occurred and why I had to

    leave. One is deceased, (Athletic Director at the time)

    Bob Devaney, and then there’s Coach Nee, and myself. And

    I’ll leave it at that, but in hindsight, I really think

    that if I could have been on the team with the NCAA

    Tournament, we would have won, because I remember

    watching it, and our guard play wasn’t great.

    And I

    remember that when guys weren’t playing well that year,

    we had enough guys, and especially guards, where we

    could get the hot hand in. And I think Coach Nee failed

    to see the big picture.

    I think

    if we would have had a whole team going into the NCAA

    Tournament, we would have advanced for sure, because we

    had a good enough team to advance. One and out was a

    travesty, and I think you really, really had a very

    strong team coming back my senior year.

    You would

    have had (Tony) Farmer back, myself, Piatkowski, Chubick,

    and you would have had enough to ride the momentum. And

    like I always tell guys, you never know, in hindsight,

    Coach Nee could probably still be coaching there. But

    that’s in the past, and like I said, everywhere I’ve

    been, I’ve always looked at the positives, and that’s

    one of the reasons I came back to the reunion.

    I loved

    the group of guys, and I have no hard feelings with

    anybody. Not Coach Nee, none of the coaching staff, and

    no players. I had a great time there, and I think I got

    a little beat up by the media when I left, and a lot of

    negative things were written that weren’t that accurate,

    but that’s media, and that’s how they sell papers.

    And I

    think Lee Barfknecht went ahead and off of the stories

    he wrote about me, got promoted to the World-Herald

    (Laughs). Make sure you write that, because I want him

    to see it.

    HHC: Prior to coming back for the team

    reunion, had you ever been back to Lincoln, or ever

    thought you would be?

    JR: No. I do have some good friends that I

    still talk to back there, Larry and Carol Fuerst. I

    still stay in touch with them to this day, but like I

    said, in retrospect, I had a great time at Lincoln, and

    I wouldn’t change that for nothing.

    Besides

    winning all those games, who would have known it’d be

    the winningest team in school history?

    But going

    back, and going to Lincoln, then to P.O. Pears for your

    get together, then the Rail, and places like that which

    are still around, it was a nice nostalgia to go back and

    see everyone.

    And like

    I said, it’s great when you can bring people back,

    because that’s what brings excitement in the program,

    when you bring former players back, not too mention it

    helps with recruiting.

    I got

    into coaching myself after playing professionally

    following college. And its funny, I seem to run into

    people from Nebraska everywhere. Played lots in South

    America, and I remember running into Bill Jackman, who

    played at Nebraska (1985-1987). I played against him and

    we beat him, and I didn’t see him after that, but he got

    there.

    And then,

    when I was working at FIU, there was a guy that was

    recently a “Then & Now,” Larry Cox (1974-1976), who was

    a professor. He loved coming to the games, and speaking

    of recruiting, I just remembered something.

    Like I

    told you about relationships, I played in Puerto Rico,

    and played on a team where one of the assistant coaches

    had a son who was at the time 8 or 10 years old. This

    kid was phenomenal with the basketball, great dribbler,

    could shoot, etc. Well, low and behold, after I finish

    playing and get to FIU, I go back to Puerto Rico and

    recruit, and I run into Carlos Arroyo, who I know, and

    his father tells me, “Hey, you won’t believe who has

    been playing well and who is doing well.”

    And I

    went back and he’s playing, and he’s averaging like 30

    points a game. He’s got Florida State on him, all these

    ACC schools, and I thought, “Wait a second, is this the

    little Carlos that used to tag along with me everywhere

    and who I used to buy stuff for?” So, I came back, and

    he told me he was a senior. And boy, sure enough, we got

    him over to visit the family and he loved FIU because it

    was close to home, and since I knew his father, he came

    to FIU.

    He has a

    great career at FIU, and he didn’t get drafted, but he

    played professionally in Puerto Rico, and he ended up

    signing at Utah and becoming the successor to John

    Stockton, and he’s played with the Pistons, and is now

    with the Magic. So great story, as far as recruiting,

    and you never know who you are going to run into or why

    you shouldn’t break off ties.

    One thing

    I do have to say about basketball and college is that

    it’s a business, and it’s a dirty business. And that’s

    one of the reasons why I left it. You really have to

    also have a big ego to be a coach, and really have to be

    very selfish, because you give an awful lot to be a

    college coach.

    I mean,

    family goes down the drain. I know a lot of guys who

    have been divorced, and kids end up suffering. So when I

    left FIU, I said to myself, “I can’t.” My next job was

    going to be going to LSU with John Brady, who was at

    Stanford and had an assistant coach by the name of

    Kermit Davis whom I know, and I was going to go and

    work, and then I sat down with my nine year old

    daughter, and for me to upend her from all of her

    friends, and she does modeling here and is very

    beautiful, plus my wife’s been an elementary school

    teacher for thirteen years, and I couldn’t see moving

    them to Louisiana and tearing them apart just to chase

    MY dreams.

    I’m

    sorry, I’ve been around, and I think that was enough. I

    played professionally for six years, and got basketball

    out of my system.

    That was

    the biggest and best decision I ever made basketball

    wise.

    HHC: Did you ever see Nebraska play since

    then or follow the program at all?

    JR: Yeah, I’ve always followed them. I’m a

    sports guy. Not only do I follow Nebraska, but I have a

    long history with basketball, so I’ve got a lot of

    coaches and players that I follow. Anthony Grant is a

    Miami High Graduate, and one of my coaches in high

    school, and now he’s coaching at Florida as the

    Associate Head Coach. It’s all connections in this

    business.

    But

    speaking of Nebraska, I think you have a good coach in

    Barry Collier that does things the right way. I think

    recruiting has to step up a little bit and he needs to

    get some players.

    But let

    me tell you something, he’s done a good job of

    recruiting, like with Joe McCray. You know, great

    player, but obviously, after his first year, he got a

    big head and let everything else distract him, and that

    happens. What the fans should understand is Coach

    Collier’s situation. You have guys like that that are

    great recruits and have a great year, and then the

    following year, they have to get booted off the team.

    And the flip side of that is just like North Carolina,

    when you have guys that are lottery picks from one year

    to the other and they leave the program, and you can’t

    blame the coach for that.

    You bring

    the best possible players in, and a lot of times, they

    either get booted off or leave early.

    That’s

    the business, and that’s the monster, and if you are a

    true fan, you have to understand that’s how this

    business works. It’s not only about wins and losses.

    Another

    thing fans have to realize at Nebraska is that it’s not

    a hot bed of talent. It’s not like living in New York

    where you find great players everywhere. These guys have

    to work extra hard to sell Nebraska over there, just

    like they had to do with me.

    But I

    think Coach Collier is a great coach, and if they give

    him the time, he’ll get the job done. For him to be

    around all the negativity and for him to turn around and

    win the games at the stretch there and get to the NIT, I

    think that’s great, because there are a lot of teams who

    had a more successful year than he did and didn’t make

    the NIT or anything.

    HHC: Very true. We know you played

    professionally in Puerto Rico for six years, and did a

    few years as an assistant at Florida International. But,

    what are you up to today?

    JR: Well, after I decided to turn down LSU

    and get out of coaching, it’s ironic, because my older

    brother is a lieutenant in the fire department in Miami.

    He told me to come in, and what I did was apply there,

    but my hard head and personality pushed me to fight up

    stream, so I also applied at the police department. And

    he said, “You don’t want to do that. You’re dealing with

    a headache and confrontational people.” And I look at

    all these negative things and for me, that just goes

    along the line of my personality and my whole career as

    both a player and person. I’ve always swum upstream, and

    never gone along with the current or flow of the people.

    Nobody

    likes cops here in Miami, but that’s my job now, a

    police officer, after they called first before the fire

    department did.

    I think

    anyone’s career chooses you; I don’t think you choose

    it. And that’s the one that chose me, and it goes hand

    in hand with my personality. I deal with people on the

    street. But with my experiences and travels, I think

    it’s given me a round about way of dealing with people.

    I can deal with high and stressful, or very calm.

    So I’m

    doing that, and I’ve been married ten years to my high

    school sweet heart. We have a nine year old, beautiful

    daughter, who is going to give me grey hairs as she gets

    older since she’s into modeling and dancing.

    I can’t

    complain, man. My college career to my personal life is

    really night and day, but like I said, I would never,

    ever, take anything back or regret anything that I’ve

    done in my career as a player. I stand up and fight for

    what I think is right, and I’ve always been the type to

    fight for the weaker guy.

    HHC: Are you cool with taking some e-mails

    from our readers if we set you up an e-mail account at

    [email protected] and tell you how to

    check it?

    JR:

    Definitely, I would love to.

    HHC: Great!

    Hey, thanks a lot for taking the time to join us.

    Anything else you'd like to add or say?

    JR: Yes. I want to add that I really want

    people in Nebraska to understand my situation there, and

    I wish it could have lasted longer. I dealt with

    different personalities there, but to tell you the

    truth, and like I said before, the only three guys who

    know what really occurred, even besides my teammates,

    who don’t know, are Devaney, Nee, and myself. And, I’m

    not going to open up old wounds for guys and create

    problems for anyone, but I want people to know that it

    was a great year, and I’m happy to be associated with

    Nebraska, and my college experience, I wouldn’t trade it

    for anything in the world.

    And

    another thing, people like yourself that are trying to

    stay up to date with former players and bring back

    tradition are special, because not a lot of people take

    their time in doing things because everyone is always

    looking for self achievement and trying to do their own

    thing. So what you are doing with this website is great,

    and I also love checking back on the site and just read

    a “Then & Now” with Coach Mitchem.

    So, I

    think what you guys are doing is developing not only a

    source of communication for former players, but like I

    told Coach Collier, down here I know a lot of people

    they can tap into. And recruiting is networking, and

    what you’re doing is facilitating everyone to

    communicate and to stay in touch.

    You keep

    up the good work man, and I appreciate you guys, you are

    a class act. Stay positive; don’t let big stories and

    great things and tales and everyone else’s ideas

    influence you in the decisions you make.

    Go with

    what’s in your heart man, and stay positive; this

    business makes it to easy to be negative.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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