Almost is probably the best word to describe the career of Darius Rice. If you remember, Rice was one of the most celebrated preps in the country back in 2000. The nephew of the football legend Jerry Rice, Darius has always been on NBA GM’s radars ever since he graduated from the University of Miami in ’04. Although he has been close several times to earning a contract, it’s now 2009 and D-Rice is still not in the league.
When Rice balled at Lanier High School (Monta Ellis’ alma-mater) in Mississippi about a decade ago, he was looking like he was going to be the next high school star to make the jump to the pros. The 6-10 forward was part of the same McDonald’s All-American class as Zach Randolph, DeShawn Stevenson, Darius Miles and the late Eddie Griffin.
Rice opted to attend Miami instead – a move that proved to hurt him. Darius was pegged a “tweener” by most NBA scouts. Too skinny and soft to be a power forward and not quick enough to guard a three. Like guys like Terrence Morris, Rice’s stock dropped every year he stayed in college. In the ’04 Draft, he went undrafted.
Although Rice had summer league and preseason stints with the Heat, Blazers, Mavs, Nets and Cavs, he spent most of his first few years out of college grinding through the D-League. As a member of the Dakota Wizards, he scored a record 52 points in route to victory in the 2007 NBDL Championship Game. That fall, Rice accepted an invite to the Cavaliers’ training camp. Rice was close to breaking the opening night roster after a strong preseason showing but was the last man cut. Ever since Cleveland waived him, he has decided to go the overseas route and has spent the last few seasons hooping it up in leagues in Uruguay, the Philippines and Singapore.
Previous to 2007, Rice had one negative experience playing outside of the country. He briefly played in China in the summer of ’05 where he had a scary and surreal experience. According to a 2005 South Florida Sun-Sentinel article, Rice’s Chinese team refused to allow him to return home to the US.
“It wasn’t a happy leaving,” Rice said. “I was on the run. I had a couple of good games, and the next thing you know it’s the scariest experience I ever had.”
This season, Darius will lace it up for Szolnoki Olajbanyasz of the Hungarian A-Division league.
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