Darius Rice

Darius Rice makes career as globetrotter

Darius Rice never imagined when he arrived at the University of Miami in 2000 as a 6-10 highly touted McDonald’s All-American that 14 years later he would be toiling in relative obscurity, traipsing the world’s gyms for a paycheck, still awaiting his dream call from the NBA.

The former Hurricane star has been to preseason training camps with the Heat, Cavaliers, Blazers, Spurs, Nets, Mavericks and, most recently, the Grizzlies last summer. He has gotten close to making a roster. Really close.

But no team has been willing to sign the sharpshooting nephew of NFL great Jerry Rice, so he has taken his jump shot to China, Italy, the Philippines, Uruguay, Poland, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Hungary, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Japan and Israel.

Rice, 32, is headed to Macedonia on Tuesday to play for a team called Karpos Sokoli.

The highlights of his pro career so far include averaging 33 points and 10 rebounds in the Philippine league for the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants and scoring a playoff-record 52 points, including 11 three-pointers, for the Dakota Wizards in the 2007 NBA Developmental League championship game.

David Joerger was the coach of that team and now coaches the Memphis Grizzlies, so Rice hopes maybe that connection will pay off.

Rice was back on the UM campus Saturday for the Hurricanes game against Virginia, his first time at BankUnited Center since leaving the school in 2004. He was honored during the game for his selection to the 2015 ACC Legends class (although he was a three-time All-Big East player and never played in the ACC).

He got nostalgic walking into the arena and was flooded with memories, particularly the arena on opening night against North Carolina, and his spectacular 43-point performance against then-No. 11 Connecticut.

Rice scored 1,865 points for UM, fourth-best in school history. But he went undrafted.

The knock on him is that he was too soft and thin to play power forward, and not quite quick enough to guard smaller players.

He watched as Canes teammates James Jones and John Salmons had long NBA careers. He saw McDonald’s All-American teammates Zach Randolph, DeShawn Stevenson and Darius Miles play in the NBA. But Rice is still waiting.

Still improving
He says he has put on 40 pounds, gotten stronger and worked on his overall game. He has been one of the leading scorers everywhere he has played.

“I’m still trying to get over here,” he said. “I still feel like I’m one of the most underrated shooters to never be in the NBA. I’m still healthy, still playing. I work hard every day. Still trying to make a point and prove to someone, ‘Hey, I’m still here. I’m not gone yet. I’m not 40 yet.’’’

During Saturday’s UM game, Rice made it a point to chat with the NBA scouts in attendance. He says he doesn’t know why no NBA team has given him a shot.
“I came back from overseas and played in the D-League two years ago to show them I can still compete, and I averaged 18 points,” Rice said. “I was leading the league in three-pointers. I don’t know what it is. I think I’m as good as some of the NBA guys out there. All I can do is work hard and hope I get a chance.’’

Still motivated
He said he gets more motivated with each rejection.

“I love to play, and I have 15 years of [anger] inside me, so I have something to prove,” he said. “I don’t want to stop yet. I haven’t had any significant injuries. I keep myself fit all year round. I own a gym, so I can’t get out of shape.”

Rice lives in Madison, Mississippi, near where he grew up. But he says he’d like to move back to Miami, finish his degree at UM and maybe go into coaching. But first, he wants that NBA phone call.

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Darius Rice fondly recalls uncle’s remarkable NFL achievements

As much as Darius Rice has been referred to as a basketball player blessed with size and phenomenal skills, he’s probably always been known because of the name of his uncle and former NFL great: Jerry Rice.

But he doesn’t appear to be bothered by that at all. Rather, he seems happy talking about the ex-wide receiver, who’s known as one of the greatest players to ever step onto the gridiron.

“I talk to (Jerry) all the time,” said Rice, a 208-cm forward for the National Basketball League’s Hitachi Sunrockers. “I saw him last summer. He came to Mississippi and we partied, went to my grandmother’s house. Me and him are like a close uncle-nephew relationship.”

And just like a lot of other children back when Jerry was a superstar for the San Francisco 49ers, Darius, now 31, grew up rooting for the team (and of course he didn’t like the Dallas Cowboys).

“I went to three Super Bowls,” Rice said with a grin. “When (the 49ers) beat the (Cincinnati) Bengals (in 1989), I was there. I went to when they beat the (Denver) Broncos (in ’90), and when they beat the (San Diego) Chargers (in ’95).”

Rice, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, added that he’d also go to see Jerry play when the 49ers came near his home state.

“I miss those days,” he said, smiling. “I was a young guy, I was meeting all these superstar players.”

Until he enrolled at the University of Miami, Rice was a two-sport athlete in basketball and football. In basketball, he was selected as a McDonald’s All-American in 2000, along with future NBA players like Zach Randolph and Darius Miles.

But Rice claimed that he was a better football player than a basketball player.

“I was fast, I was tall,” said Rice, who played wide receiver and free safety at Lanier High in Jackson. “I was exciting just like (Jerry). I think I use my football skills to play basketball, running and jumping stuff.”

Rice said that he quit football because he grew too tall, and focused on basketball at Miami, where he averaged 18.8 and 16.9 points as junior and senior, respectively.

After the time at Miami, Rice played in leagues all over the world, such as the United Arab Emirates, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, Uruguay and Venezuela, while he also had stints for three different clubs in the NBA Developmental League.

And Rice landed in Japan this season. Hitachi has struggled, posting a 17-27 record, fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re getting better step by step as a team,” said Rice, who’s the team’s second-leading scorer (14.9 points per game) behind Jamar Smith (15.0). “I think as the season goes along, we’ve grown together. The more we stay together, the better we’ll get.”

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Darius Rice Scores 39 vs. Skyfall

Darius Rice scores 39 points (9-21 3PT) and grabs 11 rebounds vs. Skyfall.

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VIDEO: Darius Rice shops at The Foundry

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VIDEO: Darius Talks About His Big Game

Darius Rice talks about his 19 point, 13 rebound performance in the Legends' win.

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Darius Rice Scores 11 For D-LeagueTexas Legends

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - The Texas Legends (8-5) fell to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (4-10) 107-97.

The Legends went into halftime up 51-47 but gave up 34 points and the lead in the third quarter. Texas was led by Christian Eyenga and Sean Singletary both with 22 points. Jared Cunningham tallied 18 points while Sean Williams and Darius Rice added 12 and 11 respectively.

The Mad Ants’ Orlando Johnson had a game high 24 points while Ron Howard added 23. Luke Harangody, newly acquired by Fort Wayne from the Canton Charge, boasted the game’s only double-double with 19 points and 18 rebounds.

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