Nov. 1, 2006
Men's basketball sophomore guard Tyrese Rice played in all 36 games as a freshman last season, averaging 9.3 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Rice helped the Eagles to a 28-8 overall record and a spot in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 12 years. The Eagles welcome three newcomers to the team this fall as they prepare for their second season in ACC competition.
Last year, you were the second-highest scoring freshman in the ACC and you earned ACC All-Rookie Team honors. What did you expect going into last season and did you exceed your own expectations?
I didn't really expect a lot. I'm not big on expectations. I just came out and worked hard to play. I just wanted to get minutes. Making the All-ACC team was good, but we didn't win the ACC Championship or the National Championship, so it wasn't good enough.
What were the keys to your having such success? And, who played the biggest roles in helping you in your first season?
My mom definitely did. And actually my [high school] coach died the day we played Michigan State and I wasn't even going to play, I didn't want to play anymore, but I just figured out that he would probably want me to play, so I just kept playing. Then, Byrd [Louis Hinnant] and Craig [Smith] definitely played a big role in that because they were two people who really talked me into coming back out to play.
You hit a team-high 63 three-pointers last year, so everyone knows you can shoot the ball. You also spend a lot of time handling the ball from your point-guard position. How do you balance these two roles - being a scorer and a distributor?
I talked to Coach [Bill] Coen at Northeastern a couple of weeks ago and he said in the first half of a game to be a real big distributor, just getting the team involved as much as possible. Then in the second half you can be a little bit more aggressive, so I'm just trying to figure out a way to mix that in. So, I talked to Coach Coen about it and he gave me a good idea.
After one season in the ACC, what are your impressions of the league?
Coming in, you already knew the talent was there and you already knew the arenas were going to be crazy, so nothing really surprised me. What shocked me more is how fast people are, like I thought I was really fast until I ran with some people like Vernon Hamilton [from Clemson], even though I grew up with him in Richmond, and [Todd] Galloway from Florida State. Those guys are really speedy guys, so we have to step it up a little bit and we have to have more inner-drive.
Are there any players who especially impressed you? Who were the toughest players you faced?
The toughest guy I guarded last year was probably Justin Gray. That could shock a lot of people because he's not really fast, he can't dribble really great, but he has a really good triple-threat series and he can really shoot it, so that automatically makes him tough to guard. Guarding Randy Foye was a challenge, too. Everybody has seen what he did, so no need to speak on that.
Last year, you shared backcourt duties with Louis. This year, the load will fall pretty much on your shoulders. What is your mindset entering the season? How do you make that jump?
I just have to be well prepared. Last year, I talked to Coach Skinner about it at the end of the year and he pretty much let me know before I even left school last year that [I'd be shouldering the load], so I've had some time to think about it. I'm not really pressuring myself or anything, but more than anything just trying to be ready to handle the load.
Last year, you played just more than 20 minutes per game. This season it seems like your playing time may increase substantially. I'm sure you'll welcome the increased playing time, but are there concerns that come with this?
The biggest challenge that I'll probably face is fatigue and the punishment that my body is going to take from being out on the court longer. Mentally, you have to be ready to play. There's nothing else I can say about it, just be ready to play.
The team lost two four-year starters in Louis Hinnant and Craig Smith. With that in mind, what are your expectations for the team this season?
I think the X-factor on the team is going to be Sean Marshall. I really feel like he worked on his game tremendously this summer, lost a lot of weight. He just came back and it didn't seem like the same Sean, so I think he's really going to step it up this year. And, of course, Jared's going to carry his load. You already know what Jared's going to give you and you know what Sean Williams is going to give you, so I really think Sean Marshall is going to step it up a lot for us this year.
Jared Dudley has said "this is my team". Talk about Jared's leadership on and off the court and his importance to the team.
Jared's probably the most important member of the team. Wherever Jared goes, that's where we go. We're pretty much following him. He talks good, he talks bad, he makes us do team things, he just tries to keep us together, and those are all the signs of a great leader and that's Jared.
Talk about your camaraderie and chemistry with your backcourt mates - first, Sean Marshall; then Marquez Haynes.
Sean and I have a lot of things that we do without having to say anything. Like on fast breaks, if he's on the opposite side he already knows that I'm going to air one up. Same thing with Marquez, he'll throw me the ball on the break and he'll just look at me, his eyes will get real big and I'm like `I already know you want this dunk', so I'm going to throw it up to him. We just have a lot of things that come together with us that we don't need to talk about.
Give us some thoughts on the three freshmen. What are their strengths?
I think Daye Kaba can be really good; he's a really good defender. Tyler Roche, he's a great shooter. Shamari Spears, he's just a work-horse. To sum it up in a word, that's exactly what he is, he doesn't take any plays off. So, I think they're all going to be ready to play.
Talk a little bit more about Shamari Spears - how long you've known him? How long you've played with/against him? And, what kind of player and person he is?
I grew up with Shamari. I've known Shamari since I was born. We played together in school, AAU, any kind of Christmas tournaments, at open gyms; I've been with Shamari ever since I can remember. It's funny because on the court, he's a totally different person. He's really tough on the court, he's a really tough-minded kid, he doesn't back down from anybody. But then you see him off the court and he's like a big baby. I already knew that coming in, so it was nothing new for me, I already knew how he was. But he definitely shows the signs of a warrior on the court and then he's like a big teddy bear off the court, so it really doesn't matter.
The team has now been practicing for about a month. What can you share about the practices? Has anyone surprised you? Has anything really caught your attention?
Practices have been really intense, everybody's going hard at practice trying to earn minutes. I think Sean Williams has been scoring a lot better in the post right now and I think that's going to shock a lot of people this year. Marquez handling the point, he's going to play some one [point guard] and two [shooting guard], and I think he made that adjustment really well. I tell him some stuff, Coach Skinner gives him feedback, everybody's helping him out and he's soaking it all in and getting ready.
Talk about Coach Skinner. How would you describe his coaching style?
When it's going well, he's just relaxed and he's a man of few words, but as soon as it goes badly you better believe that you're going to hear it, especially if you're the person that did something to make it go badly. In all, he's just a really relaxed person. He doesn't really say much, he expects you to know your role and as soon as you get outside of your role, that's when he comes out and says something.
Have you focused on anything in particular in practice?
Coach Skinner's been talking to me about pushing the ball up more to try to get us some more easy baskets. Louis was steadier at the point running the offense, and then you had Craig, so you really weren't going to run too much because you were going to get him the ball. Without them, we're just pushing it up a little bit more, getting Dudley the ball, getting Sean Williams the ball, getting Sean Marshall good shots, so we're getting ready for that.
Finally, what do you do in your spare time?
Pretty much just playing basketball, playing video games, talking to my girl on the phone, talking to my mom; I try to keep in touch with a lot of people back home. In the locker room we have Fight Night Round 3 on Xbox 360, so we've definitely been battling in the locker room, everybody plays against everybody. Dudley thinks he's the best at everything, but actually one of our coaches, Preston Murphy, is probably the best. He and Dudley have been going at it, Dudley and I have been going at it, so that's pretty much how we do it.
Interview conducted by Geoffrey Kehlmann