When the Wizards selected Glen Rice Jr. in this past NBA draft, most Wizards fans erroneously thought they selected Glenn Robinson III. While they’re both progeny of former NBA players, Robinson III returned to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season. This begs the questions of who is Glen Rice Jr., and why are so many basketball fans unfamiliar with him?
Rice went to Georgia Tech and was part of a recruiting class that included future #3 overall pick Derrick Favors. When Derrick jumped to the NBA after his freshman year, the team was turned over to Iman Shumpert and Rice. After Iman Shumpert joined Favors in the lottery the following year, that left Rice as the BMOC, just as the wheels started to fall off. Rice was suspended the first three games of the season for violating undisclosed team rules. Over the course of the season, things got progressively worse for Rice, culminating with an incident outside of a club that included handguns, arrests, and drunk driving. This led to his dismissal from the team.
Even though he was at a crossroads, there were a couple of different options he could’ve taken. First, he could’ve transferred to another school without sitting out a year because GT coach Brian Gregory did not block his transfer. The other option would have been taking the Brandon Jennings route and playing a season in Europe. Rice instead took a more unorthodox route to the NBA, the D-League. He was drafted by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the 4th round of the NBADL Draft (I didn’t know this was a thing). For the first two months of the season, Rice barely got any floor time. He finally got his first start this past February and never looked back. Over the rest of the season he averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 assists, leading the Vipers to the NBADL championship series, winning the Finals MVP along the way.
It’s fitting that as we say farewell to David Stern, Rice’s journey is what Stern must have envisioned when he created the D-League, a place where players can go and hone their skills. When Rice talks about his time in the D-league he does so with humility. He talks about how he learned to be a professional and how it helped him get himself back on track. He has taken ownership of his questionable decision making and seems to have genuinely learned for them. His maturity level is impressive especially when you take into account all of the negative stories about his time at Georgia Tech. He got to spend his “senior” year playing against professionals. Let’s hope that once he upgrades from traveling by private bus to private planes, his feet stay firmly on the ground.