I asked IPFW forward Steve Forbes what he thought of the game Rayvonte Rice just had, and what he thought of Rayvonte Rice as a player.
“Who?” The Mastodons big man responded.
Now Rayvonte Rice is not as high profile a college basketball player as Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, but he is certainly not obscure either. Rice is the leading scorer on this Illini basketball team. And he was the leading scorer in the Illini 57-55 escape at home over Forbes’ Mastodons, so you’d think Forbes would know who he is.
You’d think so. He just PLAYED AGAINST HIM.
It was the second best press conference moment I’ve ever had after Illinois barely squeaked by a Mid-Major, or Low-Major opponent. What the St. Bonaventure Coach said here is number one. And the funny Steve Forbes moment took on another level on hilarity when you consider that he has the same exact name as a multi-millionaire publisher, a titan of the business press, the world’s most passionate flat tax advocate and Republican Presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000.
Then Rayvonte Rice, sometimes called Ray Rice, but I don’t want to confuse anyone by thinking I’m referring to the Baltimore Ravens running back, so I’ll just say Rayvonte Rice, won Big Ten Player of the Week three days after this game.
Illini basketball John Groce on Rayvonte Rice, “performing like he’s prepared himself to perform. toughness stuck out. He’s able to play harder longer, I joked that he lost half a person. Ray’s a tough dude. He’s a winner as well. Similar to Tracy Abrams in that way.
The half a person refers to the 35 pounds Rice lost during his transfer sit-out season. He had about as successful a 2012-13 as anyone could have because he lost all that weight and made himself so much better.
Centennial state title.
“The coaching staff and strength and conditioning coach did a great job in helping me lose all that weight. And it’s enabled to me guard faster players, helped me get to the basket easier,” Rayvonte Rice responded when I asked him about the weight loss success story. I followed up by asking how much it’s meant during crunch time when almost every player on the floor is tired.
“Being able to pull through that, I probably couldn’t do that at Drake,” he responded.
I don’t know where 2013-14 Illini basketball would be without Rayvonte Rice, but it wouldn’t be a good place. Without him, this 7-0 group would have lost a couple games already. The slimmed down Rice can guard four positions. Against Low-Major IPFW, He poured in a game-high 17 points and helped seal the victory with a steal and two free throws with seven seconds remaining in the game. Rice has scored in double figures in all seven games this season, making him the first Illini newcomer to score in double figures in each of his first seven games since Kiwane Garris did so in his first 10 games as a freshman in 1993-94. He has been the Illini’s leading scorer in four of seven games this year.
He averaged 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game in Illinois’ wins over UNLV and IPFW last week en route to winning the league award. Rayvonte Rice currently ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring (17.1 ppg) Two years ago, Rice was a second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference pick in 2012. He led Drake and ranked third in the MVC in scoring as a sophomore, averaging 16.8 points.
His cousin, Mikel Leshoure, holds the Illini Football single-game (330 yards) and single-season (1,697 yards) rushing records and single-season rushing touchdowns (17) record and is now a running back with the Detroit Lions. Rice was a very decorated player in the area during his prep career. He won a state title his junior year with Champaign Centennial, and it’s amazing Runner-up in voting for 2010 Illinois Mr. Basketball 010 Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois .
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the country; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS Catch him Tuesdays talking Illini and Northwestern for KOZN 1620 The Zone, Fridays talking Chicago Bears for WAOR 95.7 The FanFollow paulmbanks