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His Own Man

Feb. 26, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Associate

ATLANTA — Glen Rice, Jr. is proud to share his father’s name.

Who wouldn’t? We’re talking about an NCAA Tournament champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1989, with Michigan), a 15-year NBA star, an NBA champion (2000 with the Lakers), a three-time All-Star and All-Star Game MVP (in 1997)… one of the best pure shooters ever to put up a jump shot.

Over time he’s grown comfortable with the legend that was his dad.

“When I was younger it was [bothersome],” said Rice, who is about to complete his freshman season on The Flats. “Now I’m used to it. It doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

But getting out from that shadow meant creating his own personality. That was a contributing factor in the Walton High School (Marietta) product’s choosing to attend Georgia Tech — there was never any pressure from dad or much effort from the school to go to Michigan.

That desire to branch out is saluted by his father.

“I believe in his abilities and his capabilities in getting things done,” said Glen Rice, Sr., who lives in Miami. “Glen is the type of individual that would like to set his own standard and I agree with him 100 percent in that aspect.”

As his freshman season on The Flats winds down and his first crack at the NCAA Tournament possibly on the horizon, he’s succeeded in carving out a niche, as well as a spot in the starting lineup. He’s done it the right way.

“I’m just trying to go out there and hustle and do whatever [Coach Paul Hewitt] asks,” said Junior. “Just put a lot of energy into it. The specific goal he sets for me before the games. I’m happy that Coach [Hewitt] trusts me more. I’m definitely getting used to playing.”

The Yellow Jackets certainly can get used to how he’s playing.

Over the last 10 games, Rice has averaged 19.8 minutes, 7.5 points on .464 shooting (.524 from three), with 4.1 rebounds (15 boards in the last two games), 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals. In ACC play, he’s second on the team to fellow freshman Brian Oliver in three-point shooting (.381), is third in rebounds (3.5), tied for fourth in assists (18), is third in blocks (nine), and second in steals (14).

All-around numbers like that make it easy to gain a coach’s trust.

“Where have I seen Glen improve the most? Gee, where do I start?” said Hewitt. “For one, he’s much better with the basketball. He had a tendency to get the ball and stand straight up with the ball over his head so people would really jam up into him and force turnovers.

“He’s much better defensively in that he’s ready to play defense now as opposed to reacting. He’s really being aggressive,” Hewitt continued. “He’s a great passer, really good off the dribble, good rebounder, excellent athlete. But just simple things like being in a ready position to play both offensively and defensively, I think that’s probably the area I’ve seen him improve the most.”

Playing defense? Ball-handling? He may wear jersey No. 41 like his dad, but this is not your dad’s Glen Rice. It certainly isn’t Junior’s.

Senior will be the first to admit that.

“I think he’s ahead of the game than when I was a freshman,” he said. “My game was not as well-rounded as his. His ball-handling skills are far better than mine. It’s the ball-handling that he has that surpass my skills that I am very impressed with.”

How about defensively?

“I didn’t have a whole lot of advice to give him on that, because I’ve always thought the best defense is a better offense,” he said with a laugh. “But when he came out of high school he was getting knocked about his defense. One of the things he concentrated on the most was getting better on defense. If you watch now, he’s probably one of the better defenders.”

Junior also pointed out a contrast in their styles offensively.

“From what I’ve heard he was more like a pure jump-shot shooter,” he said. “I try to drive to the basket a little more often.”

Rice, Sr., who saw Tech play in mid-November in San Juan in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-off and recently when the Yellow Jackets visited Miami, has talked with his son regularly throughout the season. While he didn’t meddle too much, he admitted he had a couple of points he tried to hammer home.

“One of the things that I told him was, that he is a freshman, a freshman that’s playing in the ACC. Any opportunity that you get, you have to be thankful for,” he said. “The work starts in practice. Go get your work in in practice. Just continue to pay attention to all the little things, while showing the coach and your teammates a great deal of respect. And never give up. Never get disappointed about not playing. Things usually work out when you follow that game plan.”

“He tries to help me with my game, with my shot and stuff like that,” Junior said. “Basically that I have to keep balance on my shots and stuff like that. He tells me to shoot when I’m open. Don’t force anything.”

Rice, Sr., believes his son’s shooting will improve over time.

“When comparing our freshman years, I probably could shoot a little bit better, but not too much better,” he said. “The shooting will come. We’ll get to the gym and we’ll stay in there until we get as close to perfection as we possibly can.”

Of course, he admitted he has drawn a line in the sand.

“He won’t beat me at H-O-R-S-E,” he said and laughed. “I refuse to let him beat me at H-O-R-S-E. We’ve had very competitive outings as far as shooting. He’s getting there. I won’t let him make a name off me just yet. He’s going to have to earn that.”

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