They run your playlists when the state basketball tournament hits Pinnacle Bank Arena, but you know them most for their voices.
For Rich Brodersen’s, “threeeeeeeeee-pointer!!!”
For Heath Kramer’s, “annnd now to the CHAMPIONS!!”
And, for Drew Denker’s, “let’s play state tournament basket-balllllllllllllllll.”
They are genuinely Nebraskan, one of us, who sat in the stands as students and watched the games — listened to the voices — just like us. From truly Nebraska towns: McCook, Malcolm, Dorchester.
They all agree that their “spot” for these big games at Pinnacle Bank Arena came a little from enjoyment, but mostly by luck.
Brodersen is the elder statesman. The one, quite frankly that Kramer and Denker view as the “gold standard” of this tribe that announces the Nebraska State Basketball Tournament.
When Brodersen landed at Nebraska-Kearney in the fall of 1990, he was quickly put into the fold announcing Loper athletics and has been at it for 31 years now. It was also at that time that he was volunteering at the NSAA tournament as a “score runner” manning phones at each location to provide the scores at other sites to fans and media.
Then executive director Jim Riley had heard Brodersen was working in Kearney and asked him to begin announcing at the state tournament in 1993. He’s been at it ever since, in a stretch that now includes a 17-year run at track and 15 years for football. He’s recently also added wrestling duties in Omaha.
“I said, of course, I’d love to do it,” Brodersen said last Saturday after announcing the Class B and D-2 girls finals. “Started at Pershing Auditorium, in fact.”
In high school, Brodersen worked at KICX Radio in McCook, where his dad was a play-by-play broadcaster. You could say it’s in his blood a little bit.
A track athlete, he qualified for state track in high school and remembers intently listening to Jack Payne as public address announcer.
That is also now Brodersen’s perch each May, his famous “to the line!!!” call a staple at Omaha Burke Stadium.
“I grew up with it,” he said. “I am so glad it has gone in this direction.”
But, still, basketball holds a special place for Brodersen. He “keeps all his sheets” and is now working at determining how many teams he has announced during his 29 year tenure at the state tournament. He has many memories.
“I have made so many great relationships down here,” he said. “From athletes to coaches to the officials. A whole bunch of great people.”
As much as Kramer and Denker consider Brodersen a mentor, he says his are too many to count. He notes former Nebraska volleyball and men’s basketball announcer Steve Johnson and former NSAA announcers Roy Churchill and Doc Wineger as PA men who helped him along.
“How did they put up with a little, young guy just coming in,” Brodersen reflected. “I probably got on their nerves, but they were always true gentlemen and always ready to help.
“I am so honored and privileged and grateful to the NSAA; to the whole gang,” he said. “To Jon (Dolliver) and executive director (Jay) Bellar. They have all been great. I am glad that they have had me.”
Heath Kramer grew up in Malcolm and came home to be a youth pastor.
Then, Clipper athletic director Jack Tarr called and needed some help filling in on the microphone. Kramer has had the seat ever since. He calls all the Malcolm events now — football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling — even the cross country medal presentations.
His role in Lincoln landed when Jon Dolliver was watching his wife, Amber, coach volleyball in Malcolm.
“He just came up to me and said, ‘We’d love to have you at the state tournament,'” said Kramer, who now works for MyBridge Radio. “That was pretty hard to pass up.”
Kramer was on the mic for the first state tournament games ever at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2014 and counts the Norfolk boys title run and being courtside for both of Pius’ last two girls championships as special memories during his time at the table.
Kramer is also on the mic at the state football championships, as well as the lead announcer at Haymarket Park for state baseball and the Lincoln Saltdogs.
He said the camaraderie of their group during the two week run in March ramps up each year.
“It’s been so much fun to get to know the guys,” he said. “Drew started a Twitter DM group when we were all following each other and so we share a lot of stuff together there. We share our pronunciation sheets give each other tips all through the week.”
Drew Denker had a little sweat on his brow last Saturday morning in the back tunnel at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
He’s just witnessed two state title nail biters. Grace Cave’s coast-to-coast layup for Weeping Water and Sydney Emmanuel’s two free throws that gave North Bend Central a 51-49 win over Hastings St. Cecilia.
“A state championship is a whole other level,” Denker said. “Honestly, just watched the two best finals games I have ever been a part of and thankful that the NSAA works me in with Rich and Heath.”
A Dorchester High grad, Denker jokes about his intro to announcing: “Our principal let me do the announcements the last day of my senior year.”
Off he went to Southeast Community College and loved it on the radio and, as a student later at Doane, he announced volleyball games while majoring in broadcast journalism. He’s now also the voice of Nebraska softball and Husker swim and dive.
Just don’t catch him in the car jamming before an event.
“Singing along and hitting some high notes and low notes before I get going,” he said.
As much fun as he’s having, though, Denker knows that he’s part of pretty select group that bring energy and excitement to state basketball. And, it’s not questioned, who their leader is.
“Rich is without a doubt the ‘voice’ of the NSAA,” Denker said. “No question it is his show and we are just along for the ride. Sitting at Pershing back in the day, that’s who we wanted to listen to. He’s a legend.”
Three voices. Three Nebraska kids just out here trying to make the athletes’ and coaches’ experiences just a little bit better. A very Nebraska story of meeting great friends working with better people.
As you sit in Pinnacle Bank Arena this weekend sit back and listen. These are the Sounds of State.