One of the most exciting Utah State players in decades didn't even touch a basketball for 10 days, until Monday. Kevin Rice says he didn't plan on doing much practicing this week, either, as he awaits Thursday night's 10th annual NCAA slam-dunk contest that helps kick off Final Four weekend in San Antonio.
The 6-foot-3 Rice, who spent the days following USU's loss to Maryland in the NCAA first round at Sacramento doing intense rehabbing on his sprained ankle, will represent the Aggies as one of eight players invited by the NCAA to the slam-dunk event in Rice's hometown."I'll just play it by ear," says Rice, whose USU eligibility is now done. "I don't have any idea what order I'll go in," and he doesn't know what dunks his competitors will come up with, so he'll create on the spot.
That's what he was so good at the past two USU seasons. His eye-popping flights to the hoop often came out of reaction to what the opponent did. Authorities such as the Jazz's VP of basketball operations Scott Layden and long-time NBA coach Tom Nissalke practically jumped out of their seats in response to those sudden Rice moves, Layden watching as a scout and Nissalke seeing many Aggie games as USU's radio color broadcaster.
To Rice, the moves are spontaneous. "I don't know how spectacular it is until I see it (on film)," he says.
Of the contest, Rice says, "What I'm feeling is a free trip home to see my family. That's what makes it more exciting for me." He was born in San Antonio and attended East Central High there. His mother lives there.
"To win it is another reason why I'm going," Rice says.
At his size, with mainly small-forward skills, Rice's NBA chances are small, but he hopes to play professionally somewhere and plans to soon engage an agent. He doubts he'll improve his stock at the slam-dunk contest, which means it's all for fun.
ESPN-TV will televise the slam-dunk contest at 7:30 p.m. MST Thursday.
BYU's Kari Gallup and Utah's Julie Krommenhoek are two of eight women basketball players invited to the 3-point Shootout at this year's Final Four NCAA Men's Basketball Championships in San Antonio. The shootout is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. MST and will be televised live on ESPN.