Local basketball legend Drake Beranek, a Ravenna High School graduate and former Loper, was not sure what to expect when he made the decision to walk on for UNL before his senior year.
This decision would mean taking a mandatory redshirt year, participating only in practice and not games.
It would mean he would no longer be a scholarship athlete and certainly no longer the same hometown hero he was for the Lopers. It would mean a new degree path and many other changes he would need to adapt to upon his arrival in Lincoln.
Now, just over a year after he began school and basketball at UNL, the risky decision Beranek made proved to be worthwhile as he was awarded a basketball scholarship and saw playing time in the Husker’s preseason tournament.
These things didn’t come without hard work, however, and the development of his game has been a long process.
As a high school graduate, Beranek says he was nowhere near talented enough to play high-level Division I basketball, making UNK’s acclaimed Division II program a good fit.
“They were successful, played the game the right way and it was close to home,” he said.
Beranek called this decision a “safe” one, as he had not received much serious interest from top Division I programs.
While the Loper basketball team seems to have had an epidemic of transfers throughout the past few years, the decision wasn’t necessarily an easy one, Beranek said.
Even when he began to have a desire to see if he could play at the next level, he was hesitant to leave the well-built program he had grown up with as a Kearney area basketball player.
“I wanted to stick around and get the program back to where it was when I got there, but unfortunately we couldn’t get that done,” Beranek said.
Although it was hard to leave UNK, Beranek said that what he felt at the time has been reassured now—Lincoln was the right choice for him. He says the move to Lincoln provided a chance to mature and get out on his own more than when he was half an hour from home.
However, he doesn’t speak negatively of his experience as a Loper.
“I made a lot of improvements in my game while at UNK, and the staff there put me in the position to maybe have an opportunity to play in one of the top conferences in Division I,” he said.
In his first year at Lincoln, Beranek said he struggled with a great increase in the time he committed as a Division I athlete in comparison to at UNK.
There are also many luxuries he is able to enjoy as a Husker when it comes to equipment and resources, he said.
“We have a projector screen for game film, a couple couches, massage chairs and each locker has wood finish,” he said of the Husker locker room.
The players were also given more apparel, including four sets of travel gear, two book bags and a handheld video recorder from the Big 12, he said.
The nutritional resources available are also beneficial for the athletes, he said.
“The food is labeled by our nutritionist, which allows the players to eat according to their specific calorie plan easily,” Beranek said.
Aside from the material items and convenient resources, Beranek said the move provided him with better opportunities for his future.
“Before I was pretty set on becoming a teacher or coach somewhere, and now the possibilities really seem endless for me,” Beranek said.
These possibilities include finishing his original teacher education degree, going on to graduate school to pursue coaching at the college level or even further pursuing his basketball career overseas, he said.
Due to eligibility and credit transfer differences, Beranek changed his major to communications studies when he transferred to Lincoln. Although he is a fifth-year senior, Beranek said he will not think about finalizing any of his plans until the completion of his final season of basketball next spring.