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March 1, 2011When Drake Beranek walked off the Devaney Center court on March 11, 2006, it was far and away the worst moment of his basketball life.
At 25-1, Beranek's Ravenna Blue Jays were arguably one of the better all-around teams in the entire state and were just one win away from clinching the Nebraska Class C-2 state championship.
Unfortunately, dismal 3-point shooting and some unlucky breaks down the stretch turned what was supposed to be a state title in Beranek's senior season into a 60-55 loss to Aquinas.
"We really needed that game," Beranek said. "It hurts a little bit still. I'm still trying to get over it."
Who would have thought that five years later Beranek would have another chance to have his final game in Devaney end on a high note?
When Nebraska takes on Missouri tonight at 7 p.m., Beranek and fellow seniors Lance Jeter and Matt Karn will be honored for Senior Day, which will also be the Huskers' final home game as members of the Big 12 Conference.
Though he was only to play one season in Lincoln after spending three years at Nebraska-Kearney and redshirting last season after transferring to NU, Beranek could hardly put into words what his final game as a Husker would mean for him.
"It definitely means a lot for me to play for Nebraska and being able to play my last collegiate game here at the Devaney Center," Beranek said. "There's a lot of history here, especially for high school sports, and to be able to go out playing here is definitely going to be something that will be very memorable for me and I'll cherish for probably the rest of my life."
While Beranek has become a fan favorite of sorts with the many of the home state fans, no player has meant more to the Huskers the past two years than Jeter. Last year's Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after coming to NU from Polk (Fla.) Community College, the Beaver Falls, Penn., native has started every game the past two seasons and currently lead NU in scoring (11.4 ppg), assists (4.4) and steals (1.8).
He is second in the Big 12 with a 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, is third in the league in steals and fifth in assists. Even more, Jeter is the only player in the Big 12 averaging at least 10 points, four assists and four rebounds per game.
Jeter's 258 career assists rank 14th on NU's all-time chart and are the most by any two-year player in school history.
For as much as Jeter has done for Nebraska the past two years, though, he says the basketball program, the university and the state as a whole have done just as much for him in return.
"I pretty much love it here," Jeter said. "I love the people that are here. I love the people that I got a chance to know. A lot of people opened their arms to me, and I've really appreciated it. I've gotten a lot of friends out of this experience. It's another chapter in my life, I want to end it on a good note.
"I love playing here. I love the fans here. I love all my teammates. Everything here has been so fun for me, and it's going to be sad for it end. But I guess it's got to end some time."
Jeter and Beranek get the bulk of the attention for their contributions on the court, but head coach Doc Sadler said Karn has been an important piece of the Huskers as well since coming to Nebraska as a transfer from Shawnee (Ill.) Community College in 2008 by way of his hometown of Philpot, Ken.
Though he's played just 50 minutes of basketball during his three seasons at Nebraska, Sadler said Karn has been a dependable practice player who has made the most of his opportunity. Karn graduated with a degree in history back in May of 2010 and is currently pursuing his Masters.
The three seniors will be honored before tonight's game with a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. While all three will be solely focused on keeping the season alive with a win over the Tigers, Sadler said their impact over the past two seasons has been invaluable in building what he wants his program to be all about.
"I think all three of them have obviously brought something that's rare these days, and that's total positive experience for us," Sadler said. "Lance Jeter, as I've said so many times, you've got a point guard that you can totally trust on and off the court, and that's what makes him special.
"You've got Drake Beranek, who is a kid who probably grew up in this state always wanting to play for the University of Nebraska and sacrificed a lot to come here and gives you everything you could probably ask for as far as a player on your team with the energy and enthusiasm that he brings each and every day.
"Then you've got Matt Karn, who again has paid his own way and has graduated from college already and has come to practice every single day and has been one of those guys who just supports his team.
"All three of those guys are guys that, when everything is said and done, are going to leave a very positive impact on our program. All three of them lead by example. They come to practice and they put forth tremendous energy, competition, all the things that you want them to do, they do."