Meet the Division III star who’s also his school’s janitor

Anthony Olivieri
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog, the college sports fan site and player database, regularly contributes to The Dagger. Here's a look at DIII player Derek Raridon.

Brian Cardinal has nothing on Derek Raridon.

Whereas the former Purdue star and current Dallas Mavericks forward has been called "The Custodian" for over a decade for the way he "cleans the floors" diving for loose balls, that's just a nickname. Raridon literally sweeps the floors before games at North Central College as an actual custodian and then cleans the glass while starring as a junior forward for the team.

Raridon has worked for the maintenance department at the Division III school in the Chicago suburbs since he was 16 years old, focusing exclusively on work done at the athletic complex. The 21-year-old landed the job after his father, North Central coach Todd Raridon, left Nebraska Wesleyan for the Illinois school before the 2004-05 season.

"I turned 16 and needed a job," the younger Raridon said by phone.

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Why is Raridon — second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game this season — still mopping up his own court?

"It's a great job," Raridon said. "I've learned a lot from my boss, and it's nice to be around the athletic complex all the time. My coaches and teammates are always down there, so it's really not as bad as it could be, I guess."

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The unassuming Raridon said the custodial work is a full-time job in the summer and part-time gig during the school year, when he has to fit in time for work around school and basketball practice.

"During the basketball season, days off I'll try to come in and help out for a couple hours," he said. "Now that I'm out here at school, I do the laundry for the basketball team as well, rather than working longer hours … I don't have as much time."

It's doubtful that any other college basketball player — regardless of level — can say he does as much for his program as Raridon does for North Central.

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That's not a surprise since Raridon said he learned about commitment from his father, whose tenures at both Nebraska Wesleyan and North Central have produced great success on the court. The elder Raridon led the Cardinals to their first division title in 21 years last season and currently has the team at 17-7 overall and 11-2 in conference thanks to wins in 13 of its last 15 games.

Although his dad coaches the team and his older brother is a former North Central player now in his third season as an assistant coach, Derek Raridon doesn't receive any special treatment from his teammates. He still gets good-natured ribbing about his job as janitor, whether it's guys purposely dropping things while he's cleaning or telling him that he missed a spot.

"The guys give me a hard time," said Raridon, who also has to remind teammates to pick up after themselves. "There's also people like friends from high school that have somehow stumbled upon the story and know that I was a janitor in high school and think that it's funny that I'm still doing it as a junior in college."

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It doesn't seem to bother Raridon, who was featured on as the Cardinals' "Clean-up Man," which has drawn some attention to a program that normally would be well removed from the spotlight.

Raridon knows North Central will never get attention like powerhouse programs do, but he thinks he has a leg up on Division I players in at least one area.

"I'm probably not as skilled as them, but they haven't had the opportunities to learn some of the things that I guess I have — working maintenance and putting in the hours doing that stuff," Raridon said.

"It's funny to see those guys get waited on hand and foot and here we are at North Central cleaning our own basketball court … it's not the worst thing, but it is kind of funny to laugh at from time to time."

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Despite his five years as a custodian, Raridon has different dreams for his future once his basketball career is over. The finance major cited the school's proximity to Chicago as a positive for whenever he has to put his degree to use working the 9-to-5 grind.

Said Raridon: "Hopefully, I'll find a job somewhere in the city and work, I guess, normal hours ... and not have to worry about keeping the carpets clean and vacuuming up around everything."

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