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BACK IN THE RAC: Brio Rode remembers ‘the smell’

Brio Rode checks her Sartans lineup at the scorers table before a game with Rio Rancho.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Before a Jan. 25 tipoff in the RAC, visiting St. Pius X head coach Brio Rode was asked what she remembered the most from her five seasons as a Ram.

“It’s funny: It smells the same to me,” she said, chuckling. “This was home for me. I loved it here – it’s hard not to.”

When she was a 5-foot, 10-inch Rams guard, she had to be driven — certainly as an eighth-grader — and then drove herself later, because her family lived in Albuquerque.

Rio Rancho was a natural choice for her to hone her basketball skills, because her mother, Charlotte Rode, had played for Rams coach Bob McIntyre when he had been at St. Pius X — so it’s ironic she wound up there as a head coach. (Her predecessor, Phil Griego of Rio Rancho, retired after the 2018-19 season and is now the boys’ junior varsity coach at Cleveland High School.)

Just like back in her playing days, her surname was mispronounced when the starting lineups were announced (It’s “roadie,” not “road”).

McIntyre coached the Rams from 1997-2009, and during Rode’s five seasons, the Rams went 99-31 and were in the postseason each time, including semifinal losses in Rode’s freshman, junior and senior seasons. The Rams beat Clovis in what turned out to be the final third-place game played at the state tournament, which in 2001 was at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.

Amassing All-District, All-Metro and All-State honors regularly, it seemed, she was tabbed the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year after her sophomore season and again after her senior year. She was the first Ram to accumulate 1,000 points, and was approaching 2,000 career points when time ran out.

She accepted a scholarship offer to play at the University of California at Berkeley, where she played for a couple of seasons before concluding her college eligibility at San Francisco State. She and her mother also run Student Athlete headquarters (SAHQ), a training center for young athletes, in southeast Albuquerque.

In addition to the smell of the RAC, her 35-point effort against Dallas Kimball High in a Mel Otero Invitational game in December 2001 is also memorable. It’s still the girls’ single-game record at RRHS.

“The kids got out of school — a buyout game — that was probably one of my favorites,” she said. “Honestly, I probably remember more practices; that was fun to me.”

Coach Mac “for me, had fun coaching, so that’s why it’s special,” she said. “Every time, he had specific things for games, like rebounding or keep this person (under this amount of points), but, literally, the last thing that would come out of his mouth was, ‘Go have fun.’

“For me, I’m trying to keep that in, because, especially, when you’re trying to build a program,  there’s things that are there but not put together, so I’ll just try to have fun with it,” she said. “We’re just doing little things, coming out of the game and giving people high-fives, picking people off the floor, encouraging each other.

“I’m supposed to get on them. Culturally, we’re just trying to keep each other together,” she said. “The basketball stuff is coming out of practice. … We all don’t have to be best friends.”

So far, she said, “We’re a really good defensive team, but we cannot score yet for the life of us, so we’re just really trying to put the ball in the basket,” she said. “Our basketball IQ, in my opinion, needs to grow and so we’re just trying to teach the game. … I wish I didn’t have to coach this much at this level.

“They bought in and they work hard, but I’m different,” she concluded. “We’ve just got to trust the process.”

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