Then & Now: Jose Ramos
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy Husker Hoops Central)
Ramos played for Nebraska during the 1990-1991
season, and helped lead the #9 Huskers to a record of
point guard, Ramos came to Nebraska after playing a
season at the University of Florida, and joined Keith
Moody in backing up Clifford Scales.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Pretty diverse school there at UNL, huh?
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).
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
I got up,
got my bowl of cornflakes, and tipped it up, and told
him, “Hey, typical crap.”
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.”
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?”
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
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.
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.
said earlier, I was an assistant coach later at Florida
International, and would recruit winners; it’s
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Mitchem was the main recruiter, or Nee’s right hand man,
and Bargen was the “X’s and O’s”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
winning all those games, who would have known it’d be
the winningest team in school history?
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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
sorry, I’ve been around, and I think that was enough. I
played professionally for six years, and got basketball
out of my system.
the biggest and best decision I ever made basketball
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
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.
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.
the best possible players in, and a lot of times, they
either get booted off or leave early.
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.
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.
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.
likes cops here in Miami, but that’s my job now, a
police officer, after they called first before the fire
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.
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.
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
Definitely, I would love to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
what’s in your heart man, and stay positive; this