Scoring demon to reinforce Purefoods

Darius Rice If there is one thing Darius Rice can do best on the basketball court, it’s putting the ball inside the hoop. The 6’10” 222-lb Rice is known as a dangerous offensive player with a knack for hitting shots from way beyond the three-point arc.

In the championship game in the NBDL last year, Rice put on one of the best, if not the best, scoring performances in league history. He exploded for 52 big points, highlighted by 11 triples – including one that sent the game into overtime with four seconds left. The Dakota Wizards went on to win the title after dominating the overtime period. Rice copped the finals MVP trophy.

It’s the kind of performance the Purefoods TJ Giants hope to see when Rice puts on the team jersey in the 2008 PBA Fiesta Cup. The team is in the midst of finalizing contract details with the ex-Miami Hurricane standout and if the negotiations pull through, the Giants will have in their hands, a certified scorer who can shoot the lights out in any given day. It will not be surprising if Rice goes on to average 60 points a game because that’s what he do best. With James Yap, Peter June Simon, and Rice, Purefoods will have the best perimeter weapons in town.

Nope, Rice will not give you a lock-down defender and and a solid low post presence but his length and athleticism will cause enough menace down the lane. Rice plays all three frontcourt spots but is primarily at home with the small forward position – a very noticeable void in the team’s roster. Rice’s defense is simple, outscore the other team by a point and you win the game. Purefoods hope, with Rice, they can create as many mismatches as possible while negating the other teams’ bigger imports’ contributions on the other end.

Rice is fresh from a stint in Puerto Rico. In four games with Gigantes de Carolina, he averaged 23.0 ppg (second on the team) and 9.0 rpg on 54% 2pt FG shooting, 43% 3pt FG shooting and 89% FT shooting. A teammate is former NBA player Tony Delk.

Rice played four years for the Miami Hurricanes in the US NCAA. He finished his collegiate career as the fourth all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,865 points. During his junior season, he exploded for 43 points (the fourth-highest single game total in Big East history) on 16-for-27 shooting (7-for-12 from three-point range) against Connecticut. He wound up averaging 18.7 ppg and and 5.8 rpg during that year (2002-03). In his final collegiate season, he somewhat regressed, but was still talented enough to put up 16.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per outing in 28 games. He has scored at least 20 points thirty-five times in his four-year collegiate career, and lay claim as the only player in school history to lead the team in scoring for four consecutive seasons. As a freshman, he was voted to the Big East Conference All-Freshman Team in 2001 and in the process, set college freshman single-game records for points and three-point field goals in 2001.

drice01.jpg Darius Rice saw broad daylight on October 16, 1982 in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the nephew of NFL all-time-great receiver Jerry Rice. His father Tom was an All-American football player at Jackson State University. Despite his football genes, he drifted to basketball. He attended Lanier HS in Jackson, Mississippi and was a HS McDonald’s and Parade All-American in 2000.

The NBADRAFT.NET describes Rice as a deadeye shooter with range out to pro 3. Super long arms and legs give him an advantage on offense and defense. Moves very well for a 6-10 player… Not a freak athletically, but his run/jump ability is very good. Intelligent player. One of the knocks against him is that he is very underdeveloped physically. Must develop better patience offensively. His ability to put the ball on the floor must improve in order to open up his outside shooting possibilities. Defense and passing must improve. Quicker than he is fast, but not a sloth.

Rice has drawn comparisons to former NBA player Glen Rice with his sweet-shooting stroke from the outside. He runs the floor extremely well and is a good ball handler. Despite his gunner’s reputation, Rice was not drafted by any team in the 2004 NBA Draft. Scouts thought he wasn’t physical enough to thrive in the NBA. He has played briefly for the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Rice was not coach Ryan Gregorio‘s first choice. The team had set its sights on former NBA star Scottie Pippen but the former Chicago Bull forward was not available. “But I think he is being considered by the Bulls (as head coach),” Gregorio said.

He was cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers late in training camp and played in Puerto Rico when the Giants called. A lot is expected from the slender 6’10” scoring machine. The TJ Giants are fresh from a heartbreaking championship loss to the Sta. Lucia Realtors in the last conference. The team hopes with Rice in tow they can go over the hump and win the coveted title.