Garth Brooks basketball

Country music star Garth Brooks (center with gray pants) poses for a photo with Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice (to Brooks’ right, with blue shirt and white shorts) and members of the Broncos’ coaching staff and Brooks’ band and crew after a pick-up basketball game on Saturday.

Two recent hip replacements weren’t about to keep Leon Rice from playing basketball with arguably country music’s biggest superstar over the weekend.

Boise State’s basketball coach opened up the practice gym twice this weekend to let Garth Brooks and some of his band members and crew shoot around and play. Saturday ended up being a day he’ll never forget.

“I started leaving once they had everything they needed and he said, ‘coach, why don’t you play with us?’” Rice told the Idaho Press. “I said ‘I have these hip things going on’ and he said ‘we have a good game, I’ll show you.’ And it looked fun, so I stayed and played. It was really cool.”

Rice, who had both his hips replaced earlier this summer, said he was ‘conservative’ in his movements but felt OK enough to participate. It wasn’t a traditional pickup game but rather a game created by Brooks that focuses on shooting and running, to help him get his conditioning in while touring the country.

Rice, assistant coach R-Jay Barsh, director of operations David Moats and graduate assistant Drew Bryson all played with Brooks and a few members of his band and road crew for about 90 minutes.

“He runs hard and he strokes it in confidently,” Rice said of Brooks’ jump shot. “He was great. We were all high-fiving each other. He had great enthusiasm.”

The memorable part came next for Rice, who spent 30 minutes talking with Brooks after they were done playing.

“He’s such a down to earth, genuine person,” Rice said. “We talked a lot about culture and what we’re trying to do and what he tries to do. Greatness is the same across any field or occupation and you’ve got these people that have been with him forever and that shows he has a great culture and cares about the people that work with him. They have a great team atmosphere.

“I gave him our culture book and it was really neat because he said he’s always looking to learn and get better and that’s something our guys can respect.”

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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