Dec. 22, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Glen Rice gets the point.
He just needs to get it on a little more consistent basis.
Then, again, entering Thursday night’s game against Mercer at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, he’d only been on the job in four games.
That barely long enough for the fire by which he’s being baptized at the position to have gotten much above the kindling stage.
But he’s making progress and will continue to do so as long as head coach Brian Gregory gives him the opportunity by putting him out there.
“Whatever Coach [Gregory] believes, that’s the main thing,” said the junior guard, who enters the Christmas break as the team’s leading scorer (14.7 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (7.4 rpg, two-tenths of a rebound per game behind team leader Daniel Miller). “Once Coach believes that I can go out there and do it, that gives me a lot of confidence knowing that he believes in me.”
Tech is 3-2 since Rice started seeing action at the point. In those games, Rice has issued 14 assists against 13 turnovers. So he’s not making anyone forget Drew Barry or Travis Best. But that’s not the goal.The idea was to find a capable back-up to allow people forget that starter Mfon Udofia was out of the game once Pierre Jordan got hurt.
Rice is more than capable.
He showed just what he could do in his second game at the point, in Athens against Georgia. Rice had two assists (against a turnover), and a steal in the second half in helping spark a second-half rally as Tech snapped a 35-year drought in Athens.
“What he did was he just made safe play after safe play,” said Gregory afterward. “At the end when there was there was some pressure I was getting a little nervous due to the fact that he’s never been in that position but I was proud of him. He did a good job.”
In his first two games Rice had eight assists but also five turnovers. He’s recorded three assists in the last two games but has turned the ball over just once.
The next step for Rice is finding consistency. That holds true for his overall game, not just the point position.
He has scored in double-figures in seven of the eight games he’s played this season, but has seen fluctuations in his shooting. He shot 50 percent or better in his first three games, then shot below 40 percent in the next three and has shot 60 percent over his last two, including a 6-for-10 effort against Alabama A&M, when he had a game-high 21, with 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the year.
“I feel like I’m working on consistency,” he said. “I practice hard every day. It’s easy to take off a practice every once in a while or not go as hard as you need to but that’s going to show up in the games. Sometimes you’ll have an amazing game, sometimes you’ll have a so-so game. You practice hard consistently, it will translate into the game.”
His effort has not gone unnoticed.
“That was his challenge this year, to be a more consistent player,” Gregory said. “His practice habits are better. I still want him to be more consistent every day in practice. The more he does that, the better he’s going to perform on game night.
“He’s become a much better defender, even though [against A&M] there were times when he struggled,” he added. “Again, it’s a consistency thing in terms of positioning and concentration off the ball. He’ll be challenged [against Mercer] because he’ll guard either their two-man or their three-man, and they can score inside or from the perimeter.”
Challenging a competitor like Rice is a tried-and-true way to get his attention. Gregory said after the Georgia win that he’d challenged Rice at halftime and he responded. There’s no doubt he will continue to issue challenges when deemed necessary.
There is no doubt Rice will continue raising his game to meet them.
“That’s one of the mottos of the team: ‘Accept every challenge. Beat every challenge,'” he said. “We try to step up to whatever challenge put on us, for example, the point guard challenge, it’s a challenge. You’ve just got to beat the challenge.”