The Pursuit of Happiness
A Q+A with international hooper Tyrese Rice.
by Erildas Budraitis / @Erildas
Tyrese Rice is one of those players who had to go through things the hard way. When Rice was attending L.C. Bird High School in 2005, people didn’t believe he was good enough to play DI college ball until he scored 30 points against Kevin Durant’s Oak Hill Academy.
But Rice became the leader of the Boston College Eagles, and successfully played there all four years, averaging 17.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. Yet NBA scouts didn’t see Rice playing in the NBA. The 6-1 Richmond, VA native has always had to prove his worth on the court, and he has never worried about that.
After spending two seasons in Greece and Germany, Rice decided to take his talents to a country where basketball is praised more than anything. Rice joined rising European basketball star Jonas Valanciunas in Lithuania—who was selected with fifth overall in 2011 NBA Draft—where he signed a deal with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.
SLAMonline caught up with Rice in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, for a photo shoot and to talk about his high school and college days, NBA dreams, life in Europe and more.
SLAM: After finishing high school, you were passed over by recruiters. In your opinion, why did this happen?
Tyrese Rice: I really don’t know. I went to all the big-time camps like Nike camp, adidas camp. After I pretty much did my business there, everybody still passed on me. One thing I heard a lot was big schools didn’t think I was good enough, and smaller schools thought I was too good to go there.
SLAM: Do you remember that game against Oak Hill Academy, where you scored 30 points against Kevin Durant? Is it right to say that game brought a scholarship offer from Boston College?
TR: Yeah, I remember it. It still gets brought up every once in a while in the city. I hear somebody talking about it. I definitely remember it and they remember it too. I think it brought on the biggest schools. They weren’t sure how I would be able to play against better competition. Playing against [Oak Hill], excelling… It really helped a lot. Boston College was always around, but there were other things, which stopped them from offering me earlier.
SLAM: What goes through your mind when you think about those days you spent at Boston College?
TR: It was all great. I learned so much from coach Al Skinner. I think it was the best four years of my life. We were up—top 5, top 10 in the country. And then we were as low as a losing record. It was a great experience on both sides. We learned to be level-headed and to be in the moment.
SLAM: Do you still think time-to-time about the game against North Carolina, when you scored 46 points?
TR: I thought it was a good moment in my career, but to me, it didn’t really mean anything because we lost. Having 40 points in a loss really doesn’t mean anything to me because you lose the game. I haven’t watched that game since that happened.
SLAM: What stopped the Eagles’ run at the Sweet 16?
TR: We had all the pieces that year and we were just one play away from maybe having a national championship… They got a tip-in at the buzzer that won the game so I can’t really say that they did nothing. Anybody can lose, we seen that happening so many times.
SLAM: You were teammates with Jared Dudley in the ’06-07 season. Do you still keep in touch with him?
TR: I talk with Jared all the time. I talk with him a lot. Actually, I’m trying to get him coming over here to workout and catch some games. He’s very interested in the European game. He’s definitely looking into trying to come over. I don’t know about this year, but it’s something he wants to do in his future.
SLAM: Maybe Dudley would like to be teammates with you once again?
TR: I wish. That would be great. He would definitely help out. Just because he’s a good guy, he knows basketball and he’s working very hard.
SLAM: Did you expect to be picked in 2009 NBA Draft? Did you receive positive feedback from NBA teams back then?
TR: Coming out of college I felt like I’d done enough to be drafted, but I never set expectations for myself. I go out everyday and take care of my business. Whatever happens after, if the team wants you, they might pick you. That’s what it was. Life still goes on. I thought I had done enough, but maybe I didn’t. There were teams that had a lot of interest in me.
SLAM: What were the main reasons you weren’t picked in the Draft?
TR: I don’t know, I always had to prove myself as a basketball player. In high school, I had to prove I can play in college and in college I thought I proved I can play in the NBA. It could be a lot of things. It’s not always on the basketball court.