North Central (Ill.) junior forward Derek Raridon is usually the first person to hit basketball court at Merner Field House in the morning. But it isn’t because he is practicing free throws or shooting lay-ups — he is usually cleaning the gym floor.
In addition to his responsibilities as a student-athlete for the Cardinals, Raridon holds a campus job on the custodial staff that is charged with maintaining the college’s athletics facilities. Raridon’s father Todd is the head coach of the men’s basketball program. He is in his seventh season at the campus in Naperville, Ill., and Derek is the second son that has been a member of the North Central squad.
The eldest son of the Raridon family, Mitch, played for his father in the coach’s first four years at the college, and is now an assistant coach for the team. Mitch was the first to work for the custodial staff at the field house, and as a 16-year-old high school student, Derek needed a summer job and joined his brother. After becoming a student at North Central, Derek decided to keep the part-time gig.
“They always hire student workers at North Central do to general cleaning at the athletic facilities,” Derek Raridon said. “When I turned 16, I wanted to work with my older brother, so I got a job with him. I’ve had the job for five years now, so I’m pretty much a professional.”
Derek works 40 hours a week in the summertime, but during the school year the maximum he works is 20 hours. He says he has cleaned the gym floor more times than he can count.
“Our days start early,” Derek said. “My boss has always been a hard-working guy and he wants us here at 6 a.m. The first thing we do is clean the basketball gym floor and get it ready for whatever is going on that day.”
It may not be the most glamorous job, but Derek enjoys his co-workers and spending time with them.
“It is bad in the summertime — our gym is so old that it gets hot walking back and forth cleaning the floor at six in the morning,” Derek said. “But, it is fun — my boss and all the guys I work with keep a lighter mood, and being in the gym is always nice, too.”
If the basketball team is practicing, Derek will go into work a little later, and clean up after whatever has been going on that day, or prepare the gym for a women’s basketball game or volleyball match.
Knowing all the hard work he and his co-workers put into keeping the facilities tidy, Derek encourages his teammates to clean up after themselves.
“After practice, guys will cut their tape off in our locker room and that is something I’ll eventually have to clean up,” Derek said. “I tell them to get the place clean because if not I’ll have to do it.”
And if for some reason the floor isn’t ready for practice, Derek is in charge of cleaning it whether he is on the clock or not.
“There have been times before basketball practice that I’ve had to dust mop the court so we don’t lose footing,” Derek said. “I know the maintenance guys get busy, especially over winter break. It is on me to get the floor ready for practice.”
“Derek understands he has to work to have spending money and money for room and board, especially at the Division III level where there is no scholarship money,” Coach Raridon said. “I’m really proud that he took it upon himself to get this job. He enjoys working for the head of the field house.”
Plus, it is a very convenient when he needs to get in a little extra time honing his basketball skills.
“It’s comfortable because whenever I get off work, I’m right there in the gym,” Derek said. “There’s really no excuse to tell my dad why I need to leave and can’t be shooting or lifting weights because I’m already there.”
When he’s not cleaning the court, Derek leads the Cardinals on it. Last year, he was named the team captain in his sophomore season, and led North Central to its’ first College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin title in 21 years. Derek ranked second in the team in scoring with a 13.6 average, and claimed Second Team All-CCIW honors for the second consecutive season.
Coach Raridon knows exactly what to expect from Derek, who is on pace to become the school’s 23rd 1,000-point scorer later this month. Currently, he is averaging 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Cardinals.
“Being around me all his life, he understands what we’re trying to accomplish as a program, and our offensive and defensive philosophies,” Coach Raridon said. “I can always count on him. He works hard in practice and that carries over in games.”
Coach Raridon, who garnered CCIW Coach of the Year last season, knows it is difficult to have your father be your coach, and is thankful Mitch and Derek have played at North Central.
“They have thick skin, and they have to,” Coach Raridon said. “They’ve handled it extremely well. It has been a time I’ve really cherished having them around. It has been great to have them around because coaching isn’t working an eight-hour day and then heading home. There are so many screwy and late hours. It was always nice they could go to the gym with me and shoot around at practices.”
Derek never really thought of playing for anyone other than his dad.
“Growing up, he coached me and I never had any complaints and learned a lot,” Derek said. “It made sense for me to play for my dad and have my parents come to all my games. My brother had also just graduate from North Central. There’s always been a competition between us — I always wanted to say my teams were better than his — the sibling rivalry was pretty fun, too.”