Terrence Rencher: Completing a journey
For the past 12 years, Terrence Rencher has been known as a former University of Texas basketball standout. As of Saturday afternoon, Rencher is able to call himself a graduate of The University of Texas.
More than ten years after he left UT to pursue a professional basketball career, Rencher will graduate from the College of Education with a B.S. in applied learning and development. Commencement exercises will be held at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday afternoon.
"It is unreal. Right now, I feel like I'm living a dream. The closer it gets, the more excited I get," Rencher said.
After finishing his UT career as the all-time leading scorer in school history with 2,306 points, Rencher was drafted in 1995 by the Washington Bullets. From there, he would embark on a professional career that took him around the world.
"I spent one year playing in the NBA. I played for the Miami Heat the first half of the season, and then I was traded to Phoenix where I finished the year. After that I started my European career, playing a few years in Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, and Croatia," Rencher said. "I literally got to see the world, so that was the benefit of playing overseas."
As the years went by, playing overseas began to take its toll on Rencher's family life. Eventually, he made the decision to move back to the United States in 2006.
"Being a lifelong athlete, I always thought that as long as I could play, I would play. But during the last two years of my playing career, my family had settled back in the United States," Rencher said. "My daughter was about to start preschool and my wife wanted to get back into the workforce. The year and a half that we spent apart was too much, so I came back for my wife, and especially my daughter."
With a house in Austin and money in the bank, Rencher was ready to settle into a new pace of lifestyle after closing the chapter on his playing career. Instead of taking it easy, however, Rencher decided that he needed to take care of some unfinished business. He enrolled at UT for the 2007 spring semester.
"I was always the type of person who likes to see things through, and I promised my parents that I would come back one day and finish school. I always knew that I was going to get my degree towards the end of my playing career. My `Plan B' started with coming back to school." Rencher said. "On top of that, I have a daughter who is in kindergarten and we preach academics to her, so I can't be hypocritical about school. I have to show her through my actions."
For the past year, Rencher has not only served as a role model to his daughter but also to current UT student-athletes as a student mentor and the Austin community as a Longhorn Leader.
"Having Terrence in school this past year has been a very special gift to us," Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student Services Dr. Randa Ryan said. "He is a wonderful role model for our current student-athletes. Terrence has helped us in so many ways, from speaking to our new freshmen and their parents at orientation, working as a mentor in study hall, serving as a Longhorn Leader and speaking often to groups in the community and across our campus."
As a former student-athlete, Rencher knows the challenges of balancing academics and athletics and has learned from the mistakes he once made.
"I was the guy who was carefree for the most part. I didn't know the importance of academics or building relationships," Rencher said. "I lived for the moment, and I remember spending my college career thinking `Right here, right now.'
"Since then, I've learned to take academics more seriously," Rencher continued. "Back then, I was in trouble with my grades off and on. If I had just taken school more seriously, it would have made everything else easier."
"My job as a student mentor is to help keep the student-athletes organized and guide them though the process of being a student-athlete," Rencher said. "They don't look at me like I'm old, but at the same time I'm not one of them. I'm in middle ground. I understand what they're going through and I can relate. I think that is why Randa put me in that position. I'm glad she did because it has helped me learn how to be a leader to help people."
Specifically, Terrence has worked with the men's basketball team during study hall, something that head coach Rick Barnes greatly appreciates.
"We've gotten to know Terrence better and he has had a great influence on the guys coming back. I think he has done a great job as a mentor and when you come back like he did, you have to really tip your hat to him," Barnes said. "Even though we never played a game together, I think it's great that he would come back and help out. Everyone knows what he did as a basketball player, but we love and respect that he's around the guys as a positive influence."
In addition to taking three semesters of classes and serving as a student mentor, Rencher also serves as the basketball program director at the Regents School of Austin and coach of the boys' varsity team.
"It's great to help develop young players. For the last thirty years, all I've done is play basketball. Now I get to help people enjoy learning the game," Rencher said. "I get joy seeing somebody get better and I love coaching."
Similarly, the athletics department has been able to share the joy in helping Rencher achieve his goal of earning a college degree.
"I will miss having him with us so much because he puts his heart and soul into everything he does," Ryan said. "But Terrence's accomplishments at Texas are now complete, as he now keeps a promise that he made many years ago."
When Rencher walks across the stage during graduation, all of his past athletic achievements will be pushed aside by something that has been more than 10 years in the making. Unlike his school records which may one day be broken, his degree from UT can never be taken away. Terrence Rencher will forever remember the day that he graduated from The University of Texas.
"My wife and daughter, my in-laws and my parents are all going to be there. I'm the first college graduate in my family, so it's very significant," Rencher said. "Saturday is going to be a great day."
A great day for both Rencher and The University of Texas.