Viive Rebane felt unusually nervous as she stepped onto the Events Center floor last Saturday afternoon.
It was Senior Day, and the Binghamton University women’s basketball team was set to face University of New Hampshire in the team’s final regular season game. But the game, meaningless in terms of postseason seeding, and the Senior Day festivities were far from Rebane’s mind.
For the four-year starting forward, there was something much more significant happening that day.
For the first time in her collegiate career, Rebane would look into the Events Center stands and find her parents, who had traveled more than 4,100 miles from Tallinn, Estonia to see their daughter play her last home game at Binghamton University. It was the first time Juri and Kaie Rebane had ever been to America, and it was one of just a handful of times that Rebane remembers having both of her parents in the stands.
“It was really exciting,” Rebane said. “I never have them both watching my games … so for me it was very special to play for both of them, and obviously I was a little bit nervous and it had an impact on my game, too.”
It may have been nerves that limited Rebane to just a single point and five rebounds on Saturday, far off from her regular season average of 10 points and eight rebounds per game. But despite her statistical struggles, Rebane never appeared frustrated and never stopped playing hard. She remained poised and continued to lead her team. It’s this side of Rebane’s game that she attributes to her parents.
“They never really [taught] me how to play basketball, they never tried to coach me or tell me what to do on the court, but they were always there supporting me,” Rebane said. “I think what I learned from them more is just my personality on the court, to work hard and to be honest and [respectful] … that’s the kind of person that they made me.”
And regardless of her performance or the outcome of the game, the opportunity to see their daughter play in person made for an emotional afternoon.
“I think it meant a lot [to them]. Just looking at their faces — my mom was crying so much,” Rebane said. “It was special for them, especially because they don’t travel much outside of Estonia. Coming over here to America was a big deal and they were willing to do it. It wasn’t an easy trip for them and they were willing to come all the way here just for this one game … and they really enjoyed it.”
Rebane’s parents and two of her brothers stayed in Binghamton for three days after arriving in the United States on Feb. 23. Although it was difficult to find time between classes and practice, she showed them around campus and the Events Center, where she spends much of her time. After leaving Binghamton, her family visited New York City, Boston and Niagara Falls. Rebane said they plan to visit Los Angeles and a few other places before they are scheduled to return home to Estonia on March 5.
“They’ve never been here [and] even back in Europe they don’t travel much, so I think it’s a great experience for them,” Rebane said. “It’s definitely so much different than back home, especially for them because they don’t speak really good English, so everything’s so different.”
Since joining the team in 2008, Rebane has had plenty of opportunities of her own to see America. In addition to the travel required with road games, Rebane has used her winter breaks to travel across the country.
But at the end of the semester, Rebane will graduate and leave Binghamton behind to play professional basketball in Europe. And by the end of the month, her college basketball career will end.
Rebane said that the thought of playing her last game at the Events Center wasn’t at the front of her mind, because her family being in the stands seemed “most important.” But now the Bearcats are getting ready to head to Hartford for the America East tournament, and the team’s game on Friday could be Rebane’s last ever as a Bearcat.
“I don’t think we have time to think about [that] right now because all we can think about right now is winning this one game; that’s what our focus is,” Rebane said. “You’re not thinking, ‘Well if I lose, then I’m never going to play here again,’ because you can’t have this attitude if you’re trying to win.”
As the No. 6 seed, Rebane’s Bearcats are far from the favorites in the America East tournament, but taking home the crown would be an unbelievable ending to an unforgettable career at BU.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve become such a better player, and as a person I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot of new things,” Rebane said. “It’s been a great experience.”