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Tyrese Rice does the dishes, and more, for Boston College

USC BASKETBALL

The senior point guard averages 5.4 assists and is also a big-time scorer, at 17.1 points per game. He's the man who makes the Eagles go -- as USC is about to find out.

March 18, 2009|Chris Foster

By now, USC Coach Tim Floyd and his staff would like to think they know more about Boston College's basketball team than anyone this side of the Charles River.

For starters, they know the Trojans need to clamp down on defense or they will be up the creek. And they realize that point guard Tyrese Rice is the guy who paddles the Eagles' boat.

Just about every possible detail about Rice and the Eagles has been soaked up by Floyd, but he was thoroughly stumped by one tidbit of information this week: He didn't know Rice had been barely recruited out of high school.

"No. Never. Never. No," Floyd stammered when asked if he knew that.

The more video he watches, the more ridiculous that surely seems.

Rice, a 6-foot senior, got passed over by just about everyone except Boston College Coach Al Skinner.

Now it's Rice who does the passing -- and scoring -- for the team that plays USC on Friday in a first-round Midwest Regional game in Minneapolis.

Rice averages 5.4 assists this season -- about his norm the last three seasons. But how he's getting them has changed. "We have more people involved, so I don't have the ball in my hands as much," he said.

He also averages 17.1 points, which means he's equally effective when he keeps the ball.

"You have to guard him beyond where you guard most players, because his range is extremely deep," Floyd said. "I mean four or five strides behind the three-point line.

"He's very difficult to guard on the screen-and-roll. You go under him and he's going to shoot it. If you double-team, he's going to split it. He's crafty and carries himself with swagger. You can tell he believes he is a player."

Rice always believed that, perhaps because it's in his genes. He says his grandmother once scored 72 points in a high school game.

But getting others to believe took time. Few recruited him out of Chesterfield (Va.) L.C. Bird High, which so frustrated his coach that he scheduled a game with Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, a prep school power avoided by most Virginia public schools.

Oak Hill was led by Kevin Durant, but Rice stole the spotlight with a 30-point performance that brought scholarship offers from Boston College and East Carolina.

"I never took it personally," Rice said of being passed over by recruiters. "I took it like it was a business decision."

Skinner took a chance and in 2005-06 Rice joined a Boston College team bursting with NBA talent. With a front line of Craig Smith (now with the Minnesota Timberwolves), Sean Williams (New Jersey Nets) and Jared Dudley (Charlotte Bobcats), the Eagles reached the Sweet 16 with Rice averaging nine points off the bench.

The next season, Rice averaged 17.6 points and the Eagles reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But then last season, when Rice averaged 21 points -- and had 46 against North Carolina -- the Eagles finished 14-17.

That's when Skinner decided that a little less Rice might be better.

"He could have been first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference if he scored more," Skinner said. "But we needed him to score less."

Instead, Rice was second-team All-ACC and the Eagles are 22-11.

Joe Trapani, a lanky 6-8 sophomore forward, averages 13.5 points and Rakim Sanders, a burly 6-5, 225-pound sophomore guard, averages 13.0. Sanders' size can create problems, especially when he drives to the basket. Trapani seems a perfect matchup for Taj Gibson, USC's 6-9 junior, but he is also a threat from beyond the three-point line.

"We have so many people that can score in different ways, everyone is a threat on the floor," Rice said. "We have been able to bring out everyone's confidence."

Boston College defeated North Carolina on the road when the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the nation, with Rice scoring 25 points. The Eagles also have late-season victories over Duke and Florida State. However, Rice has scored 20 or more points only twice in the last 12 games.

Sanders had four games of 20 or more points during that span, and Trapani had 20 against Duke and 19 against Florida State.

Said Rice: "From top to bottom, we're getting a lot more consistent scoring from everyone. It has made us a better team."

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

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