Dear Keith, don't leave us
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 13:04
Editor’s Note: I have not spoken to Keith Rendleman about this issue.
Normally, public letters are written to an entire athletic program or administration. Whether or not they have actual influence can be debated, but it’s believed that a letter should be sent to the highest level.
This is for Keith Rendleman. I first met the UNC Wilmington men’s basketball forward in an Introduction to Literature class three years ago. We sat next to each other and, naturally, we talked about his recruiting process and relived our high school glory days.
At this point, I wasn’t involved with The Seahawk. My interest was strictly one friend to another. I didn’t realize the 6-foot-7-inch freshman next to me would blow up on campus the way he did. I didn’t realize I was talking to a future First Team All-CAA member. I didn’t realize that even after a coaching change, he would be the face of the program and a relative household name in Wilmington.
I write this in the midst of another troubling period for the UNCW men’s basketball team. The Seahawks face a postseason ban next year because of a dismal APR score, unless the NCAA approves an appeal, which is unlikely. Three of the top scorers from last season’s team have asked to transfer. The remaining high scorer, Rendleman, is rumored to be considering a couple options: take a redshirt so his senior season will include at least the CAA Tournament or transfer and play somewhere else, which NCAA rules would allow him to apply for a “hardship” so he would be able to play immediately.
This letter is a virtual plea for you, Mr. Rendleman, to remain a Seahawk. Take next season as an opportunity to add bulk and become the leader that this team desperately needs. More importantly, don’t bail on us now.
Years ago, players didn’t transfer from UNCW. Players’ efforts on the court were never questioned. Putting on a Seahawk uniform meant you’d dive on the floor for every loose ball. It meant you’d play hard-nosed defense and it meant you’d pass up on a good shot for yourself for a great shot for a teammate.
Rendleman is the best player UNCW has had in a while, because he does all those things. The amount of players who consistently showed heart every game last season could be counted on one hand. He’s what’s left of a dying breed.
Brett Blizzard, UNCW’s all-time leading scorer, has watched the Seahawks take a head-first dive from a premier mid-major team to the CAA cellar from Italy, where he has played professionally for eight years. Even from a different time zone, it’s troubling to read box scores high in turnovers and low in forced turnovers, which in layman’s terms means sloppiness on offense and lack of discipline on defense.
Unofficially, UNCW has led the conference in those kinds of intangibles post-Blizzard era—of his four seasons, the Seahawks won three CAA titles.
“(Rendleman) is a warrior and understands what it means to be a Seahawk and gets it, and we have way too many people that are Seahawks that don’t get it,” Blizzard said.
Rendleman, an undersized power forward, finished with a double-double average of points and rebounds with 15.3 and 10, respectively. His rebounding mark was good enough for No. 21 in Division I college basketball.
“No rebounds, no rings,” coaching great Pat Riley once said.
“I’m hungrier than those other guys out there. Every rebound is a personal challenge,” forward Dennis Rodman said, while with the Michael Jordan-led Bulls in the 1990s.
But perhaps the most telling quote about rebounding comes from Sacramento Kings assistant coach Pete Carril. “A player’s ability to rebound is inversely proportional to the distance between where he was born and the nearest railroad tracks. The greater distance you live from the poor side of the railroad tracks, the less likely that you will be a good rebounder,” Carril said.
Rebounding is about hustle and desire. Rendleman’s attitude is what needs to remain at UNCW.
“Selfishly, I want him to stay in a UNCW uniform for as long as possible, and I think all of Wilmington thinks this too,” Blizzard said. “He deserves to be respected for whatever decision that he makes, because he has earned it.
“If I was him, I wouldn’t risk going somewhere and hoping to get better or equal results,” Blizzard added. “He’s the man at UNCW right now, and nothing is guaranteed if he decided to go somewhere (else).”