The Buckeye mentor set up a call with Rice on Monday night via Wayne coach Nathan Martindale and to let him know he is officially invited to wear the scarlet and gray when his career in Wayne’s red and black is complete.
“He told me how I’m a top priority to them and he wanted to show me that, so he presented me with the offer,” Rice said Tuesday morning. “It was just … it was nice.”
Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann held a state of the program press conference this week to discuss transfers, expectations and more.
Rice, who led the GWOC in assists last season while teammate Prophet Johnson led the league in scoring, does not expect to make a decision soon, but he acknowledged the OSU offer is a big one for him.
“For sure,” Rice said. “My grandpa actually has a buckeye so whenever I talk with Ohio State or whenever an Ohio State game is on, he’s rubbing his buckeye for good luck. So that’s a tradition that kind of rubs off on me. Ohio State is totally a blessing because it’s here. It’s hometown basically, so to be able to have the opportunity to go to that home school and play in front of my hometown would be amazing. I think that’s really any kid’s dream come true.”
At 6-foot-3, Rice is ranked as the No. 13 combo guard in the country, but Martindale said he is a true point guard.
He entered the starting lineup for the Warriors one game into his freshman season and has been there ever since.
Last season, he averaged 13.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals for Wayne.
This year, he expects to be the focal point of the team with double-figure scorers Johnson and Malcolm Curry having graduated.
“Right now I’m getting the feel with my new team,” he said during a break in the Warriors’ youth camp. “We have a very young team this year so it’s going to be a learning experience with them. With these shootouts and practices we’re just in here working and getting a feel for each other.”
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to show how good I am. I had great players to play with in the past, but I think this is my time now to show the true point guard in me and show that I’m able to run a team and do those college-level things and just show these people that I’m ready.”
Martindale said he tells the many college coaches who ask him about Rice that he checks off all the boxes — exceptional student, high-level scorer and passer, underrated defender.
“He’s gonna make the right basketball play nine out of 10 times,” Martindale said. “I think that’s what makes him special. He’s extremely humble. High character. If he got the MVP award, he wouldn’t even know it. He doesn’t care about how many points he scores. He’s a guy who makes everybody better around him. Even with his AAU team, he puts guys in position to be their best and look their best. A lot of these guys would not be able to score or do the things they do without being able to put the ball right on them. He delivers the pass right on time, right placement, and to me that’s a separator.”
Rice shot 56.3 percent form the field and 47.2 percent from 3-point range last season.
An explosive athlete, he also has long arms and a frame that looks like it can carry a lot more good weight as he gets older.
He also knows he’s not a finished product with two years of high school basketball left.
“I think I have a lot more in me for sure,” he said. “We’re just getting started. I try to get one percent better every day. That’s my goal. I feel like I’m nowhere near my peak, but man, I’m in the gym every day making 500 shots a day, lifting. I have a personal trainer. I’m working, man, and it looks like it’s starting to pay off.”
Rice’s offer list includes Ohio State, Purdue, Ohio, Central Michigan and West Virginia.
It is likely to grow in the coming days, perhaps as soon as Wednesday when he makes the short trip toUD.
“I talk to them every couple weeks or so,” Rice said of the Flyers staff. “I talk to (assistant) coach Darren Hertz on FaceTime so he gets to see me face-to-face. When he’s at the gym he gets me on the phone with Coach (Anthony) Grant, and it’s been good with those guys, too. I think they’ve been very interested in me, and I’m very interested in them since it’s home also.”