‘I have given Washington State everything I have’

Graduate student will continue taking classes as he plays overseas


BONNIE JAMES | The Daily Evergreen

Graduate student Drick Bernstine, left, embraces then-redshirt freshman guard Milan Acquaah moments after a game against Oregon on March 1 at Beasley Coliseum.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Tears streamed down Drick Bernstine’s face as exhaustion set in.

Eyes blurred, Bernstine found his way to a shower in the 24 Hour Fitness bathroom. He reached for the handle, pulled it down and water rushed out.

Fully clothed, Bernstine sank to the shower floor as water covered his body. For 30 seconds he sat in silence reflecting on the workout that had caused him to break down.

Thinking he was done for the day, he stood up and walked out of the bathroom. It wasn’t over.

His trainer, a former WSU basketball player named Nick Graham, continued to push Bernstine, dripping wet, to his limit.

This test of his will occurred when Bernstine was in seventh grade. He said it was the defining moment of a basketball career that has come to close at WSU.

“It set my life on a different path,” Bernstine said.

It was the first time he worked out with Graham, but he said it helped establish a relationship they maintain to this day.

Graham, currently a graduate assistant on the Iowa State University basketball team, said he was trying to make Bernstine tougher, mentally and physically.

“He was by far the softest client that I’ve ever worked with to this day when we first started,” Graham said.

Slowly, Bernstine developed a toughness and a love for the game, something Graham models his player development business ANA Basketball after.

The first ‘A’ stands for attitude and the second for altitude. The first determines the second, Graham said.

He recalled trash talking Bernstine and other players one day to test their mindset, and Bernstine was the first to fight back.

“My goal was to make them hate me,” Graham said.

Bernstine has carried that competitive nature with him throughout his basketball career and Graham has been right there with him throughout high school and into college.

When Bernstine decided to transfer to WSU from University of North Dakota this past summer, Graham said he was able to share his experience as a Coug with him. Graham played guard at WSU from 1999-2003.

Bernstine recalled driving to his girlfriend’s house in Colorado that summer when he received a phone call from Head Coach Ernie Kent. He said a unique feeling came over him when he heard Kent’s voice, which Bernstine described as uplifting yet authoritative.

“After that phone call, I basically knew I was coming to WSU no matter who else contacted me,” Bernstine said, “and I don’t regret that.”

The day he arrived in Pullman he faced adversity that could have prevented him from ever stepping foot on the court in a Cougar uniform.

The doctors told Bernstine he had a torn ACL. His new teammates and coaches were devastated by the news, but he wasn’t fazed.

“I just kind of had a different mindset toward it, like it was just part of the plan,” he said. “I might have cried for like 15 seconds and it was like ‘It is what it is.’”

An MRI revealed the ACL tear as well, but when Bernstine went in for an operation it was a different story. Doctors discovered his tendon was just stretched and did not require surgery, so they shaved off some cartilage and cleaned up his knee.

Two days later Bernstine was back on the court preparing for his only season at WSU.

“Without basketball,” he said, “I don’t know how I would be where I am right now.”

Bernstine averaged 6.9 points and rebounds per game this season, making just over 51 percent of the field goals he attempted.

Now, with his collegiate career over, he is looking to complete his master’s degree in sport management at WSU and continue playing basketball professionally overseas.

He said he is currently looking for an agent to find a team overseas that he can play for and, he plans to take online classes at WSU over the next few years to earn his degree.

Bernstine said he learned a number of life lessons during his short stint at WSU, and he plans to carry them with him wherever he goes.

“I can say,” he reflected, “that I have given Washington State everything I have.”