Berkley's Jonathan Radner copes wiith the loss of a parent in a senior season full of emotionsBasketball  |
Berkley – Jonathan Radner and his teammates at Berkley are playing their best basketball of the season at the exact right time with start of the state tournament just days away.
Sadly, Radner’s dad and biggest fan, Rick Radner, isn’t here to enjoy it. Rick Radner, 56, died suddenly of a heart attack on Jan. 23.
It was then, in the days leading up to his father’s death, that Jonathan Radner, a spunky and high-scoring 5-foot-11 senior guard, decided to accept a preferred walk-on spot at Syracuse University.
In his father’s spirit, Radner and his teammates have ripped off eight victories in their last 11 games.
“I think we all rallied around the tragedy, so it’s an emotional time, it’s bittersweet,” Radner said. “All my dad ever wanted to do was to be there to support me and now we’re playing winning basketball, the kind he’d appreciate. If we keep playing like we have been, we won’t be afraid to face anybody, that’s the type of confidence we have. I just want to keep it rolling.”
Berkley was 2-6 when Rick Radner died. Perhaps inspired by recent events, the Bears have been on a tear since, winning 8 of their last 11.
On senior night this past Tuesday Radner had one of his best games finishing with 26 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals as Berkley came from behind to defeat Royal Oak, 78-71 in an important Oakland Activities Association Gold Division game.
It’s been a year of transition for Radner. Last season he led Oakland County in scoring at 25 points per game while playing off the ball. Shortly after his father died Radner was moved to the point guard spot and he’s taken to it as if he’s played the position for years.
He’s handing out almost seven assists a game since assuming his new duties, content in changing his mindset to a pass-first mentality. In a recent game against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Radner scored just 11 points but had a career-high 10 assists.
“It’s all about trust,” said Radner of why his move to the point is reaping such rewards for his team. “Everyone’s finally trusting each other, starting with me. I had to start trusting my teammates more and by doing that they’re trusting me.”
Radner realizes learning the point guard position is also important for his future at the college level if he ever wants any chance of ever cracking the rotation.
“I knew I had to turn myself into a point guard, for the sake of my high school team this year and when I get to college next year,” he said.
It was his dad who encouraged him to try and earn a walk-on offer from Syracuse coach Jim Boheim.
“My father pushed me to pursue it, he really made it all possible,” he said. “We went out there and coach Boheim took us into his office and offered me a chance to go there and play as a preferred walk-on. I know that made him very proud.”
When Radner graduates in June he’ll finish second on the school’s all-time scoring list behind Bruce Flowers, the former Notre Dame star and NBA player who led Berkley to prominence in the 1970s.
Looking back, Radner surprised himself with what he’s accomplished.
“Coming into high school, I never thought I’d have this kind of success here on the basketball court,” he said.
A lot of it has to do with his attitude and competitive fire, according to Berkley coach David McGlown.
“He’s tenacious,” McGlown said. “He might not look like much size wise, strength wise but he plays with tremendous heart and lives to get after it, to mix it up out there. You watch him compete and you immediately notice his fearlessness. That’s taken hi