Gainesville native returning home with Kent State

By Adam Silverstein
December 8, 2010

For most players and fans, the Florida Gators squaring off against the Kent State Golden Flashes is just another out-of-conference game against a mid-major opponent before the Southeastern Conference slate begins. However, for Kent State walk-on and Gainesville, FL, native Brian Frank, Thursday’s game is a dream realized.

Growing up in Gainesville before going off to prep school, Frank never thought he would play college basketball. With encouragement from his brother and the Oh Fours, Frank wound up playing Division III hoops for the College of Wooster before deciding to transfer to Kent State – where his father is a provost – last year.

And even though he broke his wrist last week and will be unable to play on Thursday, just being on the court at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center dressed in a college uniform means the world to this driven young man.

OGGOA spoke with Frank on Tuesday (thanks to the good people of the Kent State athletic department) and asked him what it meant to him to be returning to his hometown on a college basketball team.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks a lot for sitting down with us tonight. I know you guys are in the middle of finals while simultaneously preparing for Florida in a few days. Let’s start with how it all began for you. What was it like growing up in Gainesville?

BRIAN FRANK: “It was awesome. I was really growing into my love for the game right around the time the Oh Fours came to UF. My brother is good friends with them and, being a kid in high school, having Taurean Green and Joakim Noah and Al Horford sitting in the stands to watch you play is really something. I think what really made me want to follow basketball was my brother’s close relationship with them. Growing up, my brother was always my inspiration and he continues to be the reason I play, but he would always try to bring the Florida players around me to give me a good look at what college basketball was all about.”

AS: Spending so much time with those guys, did they say something in particular that resonated with you or gave you that little extra push to give college basketball a shot?

BF: “They were just always real supportive of me. To give you an example, I was on Facebook today and Taurean messaged me to check how things were going. When the [Atlanta] Hawks came to Cleveland, Al got me a couple tickets to see them play. Little things like knowing they care about how I’m doing really means a lot. But if you’re looking for a quote… When Joakim was at my [Bucholtz] high school games, he would always yell, ‘Take it to the baja little Frankie!’ That was fun.”

Read the rest of our interview with Kent State’s Brian Frank…after the break!

AS: Do you have any history with head coach Billy Donovan or anyone else on the coaching staff? I know they are often running clinics locally.

BF: “Not too much. I have met [Donovan] a couple times but haven’t had that many interactions. Coach [Larry] Shy[att] on the other hand I talked to before. I [spoke to him when I] committed to Wooster, since he is an alum. And Coach [Richard] Pitino and I have some interesting history as well. When I was at IMG [Prep Academy], Coach Rick Pitino actually asked me to walk on at Louisville while he was there recruiting Jared Swopshire. About four days before I was going to go visit the campus, [Richard Pitino] called me up and told me they gave away my spot and wouldn’t need me anymore. It was pretty devastating.”

AS: Ending up at Kent State came after a not-to-pleasant experience over at the College of Wooster for you. What has it been like seeing the difference in play in the MAC?

BF: “It has been eye-opening. Division III basketball is alright, but the competition difference is enormous. Being in a mid-major conference like the MAC has been a great experience. There are a lot of players in this league, and it’s always fun to be the underdog.”

AS: Though your memory with coach Pitino is unfortunate, your team has a chance to get you a little revenge. Kent State already took down Cleveland State (a NCAA Tournament darling in 2010) this year and as a team has faced some big programs in the past, but what is the feeling around there about coming down to face a former National Champion in Florida?

BF: “We are all really, really excited. There are actually a lot of connections between the two programs. Our all-conference center Justin Greene played high school with Erv[ing Walker] and we have a transfer from Rutgers, Patrick Jackson, who played last year with Mike Rosario. This one has been circled on the calendar for a while.”

AS: Obviously we are not looking for your team’s game plan, but you guys have undoubtedly been watching tape on Florida and preparing your strategy. What have you been noticing from the tape and trying to key-in on?

BF: “One thing would definitely be their size and speed. They are a real athletic team with a lot of people who can hurt you at any given time. Having guys like Kenny [Boynton] and Erv – who can extend the floor with their shooting abilities – is definitely something we’ll have to watch out for if they get hot early.”

AS: Watching the Gators your whole life, did you ever think you’d be on the court dressed in a college uniform participating in a game in the O’Dome?

BF: “Never. You know this is absolutely a dream come true. When I was little, I would always shoot in my driveway and pretend to be in the O’Dome or in Cameron Indoor. Never did I expect to come back to Gainesville and be playing against the Gators. It’ll be a great experience and something I’ll likely cherish the rest of my life.”

5 Comments

  1. E-Pain says:

    Great article Adam, a nice little change of pace. Good luck Brian!

  2. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Nice story.

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Great to hear when the Gainesville hometown kids express their love for their town, even when they go on to play somewhere else. Good luck to this kid personally, but Go Gators beat kent!!

  4. Ed Q. says:

    Horford gave him 2 tickets to see Hawks play the Cavs? Uhh, hate to ask this but isn’t that an NCAA violation?

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