His favorite movie is Rush Hour. The San Francisco 49ers are his favorite sports team. In his spare time, he enjoys working on his computer and playing chess. His preferred food of choice is red beans and rice, with candied yams; typically classified as a southern meal. Does this mean that Mississippi native Darius Rice could be a NASCAR fan as well?
One thing is certain, the 6-10 junior forward has been one of the huge assets to the University of Miami basketball team his past three years in college. This season has been no different, as Rice enters Satuday afternoon’s game against Boston College leading Miami with a 20.2 points per game scoring average.
Rice, who has missed just one start in his three years as a Hurricane, already has 15 double doubles on the season, including a 32-point, 10 rebound effort against Virginia Tech Tuesday night. Anyone in the Big East can associate Rice as a powerful offensive player, and he has continued to add new aspects to his game, as his 39. 6 percent rate from three-point range ranks among the conference leaders.
However, those in attendance at the Convocation Center Tuesday saw new trait of Rice’s that cannot be found in the stat sheet. Rice was spotted wearing a red wristband on his elbow during the game, with a white number three in the center. After viewing the wristband, several interpretations could be drawn.
Some observers felt that he was a fan of Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson and instead of copying the popular trend of wearing replica jerseys, Rice was instead starting his own trend with the wristband. Other people figured that the three on his wristband signified Rice’s success from behind the arc.
However, a third possibility came into play regarding the meaning behind the wristband. NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, takes place this Sunday. That day also marks the two-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death. Does this prove that Rice is in fact a NASCAR fan, and that the wristband served as a tribute to the famous driver.
Well, not exactly. In fact, the explanation behind the number three is one that probably wouldn’t excite very many people.
“It actually is just a wristband company name,” Rice said. “Those are pretty good scenarios that you all thought up.”
However, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that Rice wants to, in some way, pay tribute to Earnhadt.
“Dale Earnhardt was one of my favorites,” Rice said “He is one of the most respected drivers in that league, and I miss watching him race. As you figured, growing up in the south, you have to at least follow NASCAR.”
As for the number three, Rice has been very successful with that particular shot, wristband or not this season, especially in late game situations. The Hurricanes were down 72-69 to Florida Dec. 21 when Rice hit a three-pointer from the right corner with 26 seconds remaining, which would eventually force overtime. On Jan. 4 against North Carolina, Rice knocked down another three from the right corner, tying the score at 60.
In Miami’s first meeting with Connecticut Jan.11, Rice sent the game to overtime with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Nine days later he won the ‘Canes second meeting with the Huskies on a trifecta with half a second left.
Along with 30 others, Rice is one of the midseason finalists for the 2002-03 John R. Wooden Award. The Wooden Award, presented April 1 in Los Angeles, is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball and is presented to the nation’s college baketball player.
Not only does the winner have to excel on the court, but in the classroom as well. According to Rice, understanding the importance of a college education has been one of the easier parts of his career at the University of Miami.
“You have to make academics a priority,” Rice said. “A degree in education is very important, no one can take that from you. If I was not playing basketball, I would definitely pursue a career in computer engineering or designing software for video games.”
Whether the wristband was a fashion statement, a good luck charm, or a tribute to an admired athlete, Rice has aided the Hurricanes in nearly every one of the team’s victories this season. Interpret the number three in any manner, but the southern athlete apparently admires former and present number threes in a variety of sports, and most importantly, continues to rack up three-pointers for the Miami Hurricanes.
-Dana Strokovsky can be reached at SportsJunkie525@aol.com