Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Drake Beranek may not be the fastest or most highly recruited athlete, but the native of Ravenna, Neb., knows what it takes to play with no regrets and represent his state with pride.
"It's very special for me to play for my home state," Beranek said. "You have the 'Nebraska' across your chest and you grow up shooting baskets in the size extra small jersey. Hearing the fight song and all that stuff just kind of gives you goose bumps every time because of the tradition that it means."
A fifth-year senior, Beranek spent his first three seasons at Nebraska-Kearney, where he was one of the top guards in the Division II ranks. He scored nearly 1,500 points in his three years at UNK and averaged more than 20 points per game as both a sophomore and junior before walking on with the Husker program in August of 2009. Even with his accolades and dominance on the court, Beranek knew that he couldn't ignore his desire to play at the next level.
"I enjoyed Kearney a lot and it was a good experience," Beranek said. "I got to the point where I kind of wanted to see if there was more out there that I could accomplish and be a part of something maybe a little bit bigger. Coming here just seemed like everything was aligning itself to where we could get the opportunity to see how big we could make it."
Upon transferring to Nebraska, Beranek had to comply with NCAA transfer guidelines that said he must sit out the 2009-10 season. The time off the court was hard for him, as a player with such a passion for the game, but he used that time to get better and transition into the style of Division l basketball.
"I'm in a different role here and I'm enjoying that role a lot," Beranek said. "Sitting out a year makes it tough to get back into the game mode and the flow of it. You hit some shots in practice, but it's not the same as in a game. You try to go as full speed as possible, but the speed is a little quicker in a game compared to practice. I sat out and saw some good players and tried to pick up on some things."
Beranek may no longer be the unquestioned star and lead shooter for his new team, but he is without a doubt affecting the way the Huskers play. He gives NU additional size in the backcourt for matching up with opponents and also has a high basketball IQ. Beranek has the utmost respect from his teammates for his leadership and work ethic, as he is always scrambling for loose balls and endlessly giving his all to make his teammates better. He was rewarded for his hard work in August by earning a scholarship for the 2010-11 season. In the end, all he desires to do is help his team win.
"I'm just trying to limit my mistakes and give our team the best chance at winning," Beranek said. "I want to come in and try to make a positive impact on the game when I get the opportunity. I like to think that I play pretty hard and try to make smart plays."
Beranek comes from a strong basketball family, as his dad, Paul, was his coach through high school and most of his basketball career until he came to college. As Beranek admits, his dad was really the only coach he knew for a while.
"Now that I've gone to some different places it is interesting to see how much you really appreciate the things that he does and the relationship we have," Beranek said. "It was kind of a special thing. I would never tell it to his face, but he's a decent coach at the end of the day."
The support of his family is something that drives the younger Beranek and also keeps him grounded. While his father is often consumed with his own team during the season, Beranek can be certain that he will almost always see his mom and dad sitting in the crowd during a game.
"His first priority is obviously his team, but my mom and him are very supportive and they're going to try and get to everything they can," Beranek said. "If that means getting home at 1 a.m. and getting up at 5 a.m. for another practice, then that is what he is going to do. I am very lucky to have the family support that I do."
When it is all said and done, Beranek doesn't want to be remembered for individual accolades or achievements. The humble, hard-working player from central Nebraska just wants to represent his state well and make everyone involved with the program proud.
"There are all kinds of clichés about it," Beranek said. "I would really like to help get Nebraska on the path that all the Nebraska fans and the University deserve, and that is a successful basketball program. We've seen glimmers of it the past couple of years and I am just really hoping that we can come together as a team and get the next step and shake things up a little bit. I'd like to say I tried to represent my state well by the way that I play, by working hard and doing the right thing. I've tried to be humble and do the things that represent Nebraska values."