He was good as advertised. Scouting reports pegged him as a cold-blooded scorer, one of the best pure shooting strokes outside of the NBA, and they were right. Darius Rice‘s 56 points on 6 of 17 shooting from deep 3 was reminiscement of his 52-point outburst in the NBDL championship game last year. Rice scored the marginal basket – a breakaway side-stepping move – to give the Giants a 127-126 double OT win over the new-look Magnolia Beverage Masters.
So hot was Rice that he scored 18 points in the first quarter alone, mostly on outside forays. The 56-point output is the highest in the league since former Purefoods and Sta. Lucia import Derek Brown exploded for 57 points in a 99-120 loss to San Miguel Beer while playing for the Realtors four years ago. So is Rice the real deal then? You bet.
So if Rice is so good then when why isn’t he in the NBA? So that kind of talent is not in the NBA for a reason. Even at 25, he is still continues to be an NBA prospect because he’s such a good shooter and at 6’10” he can create mismatches at the small forward spot. His defense, though, leaves a lot to be desired and that’s one thing that keeps him from getting an NBA job. I saw him in the summer league for the past two years while playing for the Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers and while he did impress me with his offensive game, he continues to be one-dimensional but make no mistake about it, I like his toughness down the stretch. Man, this guy simply doesn’t flinch during the most crucial parts of the game. His three-point shot on a fastbreak with a little under two minutes left on the clock tied the game at 101 apiece.
So far, Purefoods’ ploy is working good. Not that they intended beforehand to enlist a scorer of an import unlike the other teams. Rice’s availability was an opportunity in itself and the Giants made sure that they didn’t pass up on that chance to grab the high-scoring forward. The coaching staff have learned from experience three years ago that while a big import can wreak havoc on the defensive end, he will not be able to help jack up the team’s scores. Purefoods’ best defense is probably outscoring the other teams. Enrico Villanueva’s addition to the line-up was a gift from heaven. Nope, he didn’t make everyone forget about Marc Pingris, but he did what he was supposed to do, and played like the Enrico of old, the one who used to play for Red Bull – inspired, tough, and focused on the game (ok not that he wasn’t focused during his stint with Magnolia).
I will not be surprised now if teams begin to scour the globe for imports who play a similar game just to keep up with Purefoods’ Darius Rice. There are a lot of small forwards out there 6-7 or less who can light up the scoreboard and do the same thing what Rice is doing for the team but they will have to sacrifice having their locals defend on other teams’ taller imports.
It looks like Rice is one of those one and done imports. He will be in the NBA next season for sure, if he learns to harness his defensive toughness in the PBA. The only problem I see with him is that teams will later on exploit his svelte frame and play tough on him. He’s on the lighter side and if they keep banging on him, his body could yield in the long run. Anyway, let’s just enjoy the Rice show for the moment. Nope, we haven’t made a monicker for him yet, but Sizzling Rice looks good.