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    Then & Now: Tom Best

    Then & Now: Tom Best

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    Tom%20Best.gifTom Best

    played for Nebraska from 1993-1994 and in the NCAA

    Tournament both years he played in Lincoln.

    Best, a

    6'9" forward from South Holland, Illinois, came to the

    Huskers following two seasons at Toledo, and was a key

    reserve during his times at Nebraska, especially because

    of his ability to play on both the inside and perimeter.

    Best is

    our latest guest in this Sunday's version of "Then &

    Now".

    HHC: Welcome

    aboard. You went to Thornwood High School (Illinois),

    where you averaged 20.5 PPG and 10.0 RPG as a senior

    while being named fourth-team All-State. You ultimately

    chose to attend Toledo, but who else recruited you out

    of high school?

    TB: Just about all the Illinois schools,

    and Purdue actually, when Bruce Weber was there, but

    they ended up taking a guard. So, I was at a crossroads

    with what to do since it was late in the signing period,

    and I ended up going to Toledo.

    But, I

    think if Purdue would have taken me, I probably would

    have gone there.

    HHC: You ended

    up playing two seasons at Toledo and your second was the

    best, as you led the Mid-American Conference in

    rebounding (8.9 RPG) while averaging 13.3 PPG on a team

    that went 17-16. What made you decide to leave Toledo

    and come to Nebraska?

    TB: Well, we had played Nebraska in

    1990-1991, and that’s when they were 26-8. They had a

    great team and we went out to Lincoln and got spanked,

    and I had a little idea of what Nebraska was like.

    But the

    reason I really left Toledo was because the whole

    coaching staff got fired and let go of. Head coach and

    all the way down, too. And I had a pretty decent year,

    so I thought I could move up into the Big 8.

    So yeah,

    we had gone out there and played them, and after the

    season, Danny Nee was in contact, and the rest is

    history, I guess. 

    HHC: Speaking

    of Nee, talk about your relationship with him, both at

    the beginning and end?

    TB: (Laughs)

    Oh geez... Well, my relationship with Coach Nee, we’ll

    just say it was some good, some bad. I think he’s a good

    recruiter and a good motivator. Some of his tactics are

    to be desired for, I think, but everyone is different.

    And that’s about it; I really don’t want to get into

    anything else.

    HHC: Fair

    enough.

    TB: I will say

    that we had an up and down relationship, lets put it

    that way, but I know he had a tough job, and hey,

    whatever, its water on the bridge now, know what I mean

    Dave?

    HHC: Most

    definitely. Talk about your first year on campus in

    Lincoln, which was 1991-1992, and your redshirt year.

    You had back surgery following that year in March of

    1992. What was that season like?

    TB: It was tough. You practice the whole

    year and I knew something wasn’t right in my back the

    whole time, but I just did it anyway. And one day, I got

    up to brush my teeth of all things, and that’s when my

    back went out.

    So I had

    the surgery, sat out the whole summer, and came into my

    junior year behind everyone else already. I would never

    use the back as a crutch, but I never was the same

    player. I always struggled the last two years with it,

    and just got through it.

    HHC: 1992-1993 was the first you played at

    Nebraska, and you appeared in 28 games while averaging

    4.7 PPG and 4.8 RPG off the bench. As a team, you guys

    went 20-11 and made the NCAA Tournament before losing to

    New Mexico State. What sticks out about that year?

    TB: I think I

    was disappointed with the way I played, but was real

    happy for the team and it was real neat going to the

    NCAA Tournament; I don’t think I would have had that

    chance at Toledo.

    But

    yeah, it was a good team and we knew we had a lot of

    great players coming back the next year, and other than

    my personal performance, I think we had a pretty solid

    group of guys on that team.

    HHC: 1993-1994 saw you guys go 20-10 and

    win the Big 8 Tournament before losing to Pennsylvania

    in the NCAA Tournament. Before we talk about the NCAA

    Tournament, tell us what you remember about the Big 8

    Tournament run?

    TB: I remember Eric Piatkowski going for

    42, I remember that. And that of all things is what

    sticks out in my head most. He was stepping over half

    court and putting it up. And Eric never saw a shot he

    didn’t like, which I loved, but he was unbelievably hot.

    It was fun to see that.

    And we

    had a fun run coming into the Big 8 as well. I know we

    went down to Missouri later in the season, and there

    were a couple of questionable calls and we ended up

    losing, but we were pretty hot going into the tournament

    and thought we could win it.

    Each

    game was great; we played Oklahoma, Missouri, and

    Oklahoma State, and those were all teams that we played

    pretty well against throughout the year and thought we

    could beat them, and we did. It was fun.

    I’ll

    tell you what, here’s another thing that sticks out.

    It’s kind of funny how Nebraska was such a big football

    school, and then there were people all around the bus on

    the way from Nebraska City back to Lincoln. We had to

    get a police escort back and there were people all along

    Highway 2 once we hit the Nebraska state line waving and

    saying “thanks.” And I realized then that they hadn’t

    had any basketball things to get excited about, so that

    was really neat. 

    HHC: How

    disappointing was it to end your career in the NCAA

    Tournament like that?

    TB: Yeah, that

    was tough to swallow, definitely. We were on a good roll

    going in there and we just ran into, of all teams, Penn,

    and they could pass and pick and really just dissected

    us to death. They had a couple of good guards, and we

    just couldn’t get it going. Everybody wanted to get us

    back into the game and everyone was pressing, and

    nothing worked. And it was VERY disappointing because I

    think we would have had a big run.

    I know

    back home in Chicago all my boys had us going quite a

    ways in their pools, and I know people in Lincoln did

    too, but unfortunately, we got another watch, and that’s

    about it.

    HHC: A lot of people say that you guys

    were unprepared and a little complacent in the NCAA

    Tournament those years. Do you agree with that, or were

    you guys just beaten on those nights?

    TB: I don’t

    think it was anything of a choke, but I just think we

    caught teams on their best days and our not so good

    days. That was the case with Penn; that was a team that

    executed and did the things they needed to win, and hit

    their shots, and it wasn’t from a lack of effort or

    choking, we just pressed too hard.

    HHC: What are your favorite memories of

    Nebraska, both on and off the court?

    TB: I enjoyed going to school there. I had

    a good time, and had never been out there before except

    for when we played there with Toledo. I liked the small

    town feel but yet it’s still a city. Most people say “hi

    and bye” to you instead of telling you to go somewhere,

    like in Chicago.

    As far

    as basketball goes, I had a great time, and it was neat

    going to the NCAA Tournament and winning the Big 8. But

    to this day, I’m still a little disappointed in how I

    performed my junior and senior years. I let my own

    expectations down, which is tough to swallow, but hey,

    you move on and try to achieve in other things, you

    know?

    HHC: For sure.

    Do you still keep in touch with anyone from Nebraska?

    TB: The only guy I have really have seen

    is Eric Piatkowski. You know, he obviously played with

    the Bulls the last two years, and I see him in the

    summer. I’ll see Beau Reid and a couple of guys every

    once in awhile at a football game or something, and I

    talk to Chris Cresswell occasionally, too, on the phone.

    I saw him a few years ago, but mostly just Eric; we’re

    still real good friends and we were roommates in

    college. We’ve always had a good time outside of

    basketball.

    HHC: Can you

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

    add to our ongoing collection?

    TB: I guess you could put this in here,

    it’s not too bad, and we’re all adults now (Laughs). Our

    senior year we had a Christmas party, and Eric and I

    lived together, and we had all the guys come over. We

    told the team to dress up and you had to wear some type

    of sports coat and a tie, so all the guys, as you can

    imagine, had to scramble a little.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Right.

    TB: Yeah… But

    it was getting out of hand and we were having a good

    time, and then all of a sudden the door knocks, and

    we’re like, “Who’s this?” And next thing you know its

    Danny Nee and another assistant we won’t name holding a

    case of Michelob Light and ready to join us.

    So we’re

    hanging out, having fun, and the next knock we get is

    from the Lincoln Police Department. So me and Eric go

    down and Coach Nee obviously wants to be a part of it

    and he comes down, and I think the officer looked at us

    and Coach Nee and said, “Hey Coach, can you keep it

    down?”

    And that

    was the end of that, but it was pretty funny. Those are

    good memories of Nee there.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    It’s amazing how each guy we talk to has a different Nee

    story. Do you still follow the basketball program at

    Nebraska?

    TB: I haven’t

    that much, I’ll be honest with you. I’ll watch them when

    they are on ESPN, and I’ll look at the standings once in

    awhile. I live in the Chicago and Chicago Land area and

    it’s such a Big 10 sports area, but I’ll look in the

    paper and follow them and try to keep up as much as I

    can.

    I don’t

    know stats or Barry Collier or anyone else, but

    hopefully they’ll get things turned around and get back

    on the right track for Nebraska Basketball and where it

    should be.

    They

    need to get back to the NCAA Tournament; that was always

    the benchmark of a good season, and I think along with

    getting there, it would help recruiting and the exposure

    of the program, too, obviously.

    HHC: Agreed.

    And last but not least, what has Tom Best been up to

    since 1994, and what is he doing today?

    TB: Just

    working, like the rest of us. I’m married these days

    with a 3 year old daughter, and we found out we have a

    little boy on the way come October, so I’m fired up

    about that. I’m actually of all things selling medical

    devices for spinal surgeries, and I’ve been doing that

    the last 6 years. And, I’ve gotten to go into the OR

    (Operating Room) and watch the procedures and stuff, so

    that’s kind of neat. I’m selling devices for back

    surgery which is kind of both neat and ironic after

    having back surgery myself.

    HHC: If we set you up an e-mail account at

    [email protected] , would you be

    willing to take some e-mails from our readers?

    TB: Sure, that’d be great.

    HHC: Awesome. Thanks for your time, and

    anything else you'd like to add?

    TB: I think what you guys are doing is

    awesome exposure of Nebraska Basketball. It’s a lot of

    hard work, and you and I have done a lot of phone tag

    leading up to this interview, but it’s appreciative to

    go onto Husker Hoops Central and see what a lot of other

    guys are doing.

    Even

    though I can’t keep in touch with all of them, it’s nice

    to see that everyone is doing well.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">



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