From Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, and Adrian Dantley to Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, and Markelle Fultz, the metropolitan DC area consistently produces NBA greats. Naturally, the competition among high school and prep programs in the DMV is some of the best in the country. Already a prioritized recruiting area, Mike Young and his staff are working hard to earn the pledge of one of the DMV's next NBA players.
But first, a story.
The Indiana Hoosiers produced some of the most dominant teams of the 1970s through the 90s, making the Tournament 27 times over a 30-year stretch (1973-2003). In 1988, under head coach Bobby Knight, 1 year removed from their 5th NCAA Tournament championship and starting 3 future NBA players, Indiana earned a 4-seed in the '88 dance. Their opponent was 13-seed Richmond who earned their place by winning tight games down the stretch en route to a CAA championship. In the final minute, clinging to a 1-point lead, Indiana could not stop Richmond's #24 who pulled up from 18 feet out and made the shot that put the Spiders up for good, cementing his place in one of the greatest moments in Richmond and Virginia sports history.
Fast-forward to 2020. DeMatha head coach and DMV legend Mike Jones was tasked with a tall order: he'd just won yet another WCAC title and COY award, but his team was losing stars Earl Timberlake, Jr. and Hunter Dickinson to graduation. He needed a playmaker. He needed a floor general. Lucky for him, he was about to get both in one player. Number 24- the man who took down Bobby Knight in 1988 - had a son, and his son was hooping just on the other side of the Beltway. Class of 2022 guard Rodney Rice, Jr. was averaging 23 points and 5 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Bullis School in Potomac. A world-beating competitor like his father, Rodney, Sr., Rice transferred to DeMatha, and established himself as one of the nation's best guards. Today, he's the top priority recruit for Virginia Tech in the 2022 class.
The Number One target on my board (just call him "Uno"), Rice is an athletic, smart, complete guard who has been honing his skills at a high level for years. After Rice made the trip east inside 495 to Hyattsville, he averaged over 13 ppg and 5 rebounds, shooting 59% from the field over the course of DeMatha's perfect 11-0 season. On the EYBL circuit this year, playing for Team Durant alongside Top-10 2022 prospect Dariq Whitehead and current Pitt commit Judah Mintz, Rice shined again, averaging 15.8 ppg, 2.3 assists, and shooting 46.7% from the floor with 44.4% accuracy from 3. Every step along the way, from his days at Bullis to an Elite Eight run at Peach Jam, Rice has been challenged to raise his game against fiercer competition, and he's risen to that challenge every time.
What makes Rodney Rice such a terrific prospect? Name it. He's an elite shot-maker. He can whip a crisp pass in traffic. He grabs rebounds. He defends. He facilitates. He has excellent court vision and awareness. Off-hand? Wrong foot? Through contact? Doesn't matter. He gets buckets. But anyone who's seen him light it up in person against Paul VI or Gonzaga knows Rodney Rice is a capital-C Competitor. He has a brand of hustle and drive that keeps your eyes glued to Rice despite being surrounded by other great players.
Rice boasts an impressive offer list including the likes of Miami, Maryland, LSU, Georgetown, Louisville, Alabama, and Indiana. He began his summer with an unofficial visit to Virginia Tech on June 1, the first day of in-person recruiting after a long dead period. It was his first chance to get face-to-face time with coaches who had been recruiting via phone, text, and video calls. It was also his first time reuniting with his former coach Mike Jones, who just the month before, had accepted the Hokies' associate head coach position. "It was cool," said Rice. "The coaches and I have formed an important connection and I felt very welcomed and prioritized as well."
The message from the Hokies is pretty simple: Rodney Rice is their top priority in this class. With no Wabissa Bede or Storm Murphy in 2022, the Hokies will want Rice, a high-IQ, proven playmaker, to take the ball on Day One, play his game, and run the team.
With such a strong, unique, and straightforward pitch, Mike Young and his staff are taking absolutely nothing for granted in Rice's recruitment. They've maintained constant contact and presence at Rice's games and tournaments. And they shouldn't be shy about what's in the Hokies' favor. Mike Young and his staff are some of the most respected, caring, and successful coaches in college basketball. They've annihilated expectations and set Virginia Tech on a trajectory that has grabbed attention nationally. They'll be overseeing a huge cash infusion in the coming years to add to their already impressive facilities. They personify the family vibe Virginia Tech is famous for across the country. Those DMV greats we talked about earlier? Oladipo and Fultz? Just two of the many talented guys Mike Jones coached into NBA players.
And what would a Rice commitment mean to the Hokies? No to sound dramatic, but possibly everything. According to 247 Sports, Rodney Rice would be the 3rd highest ranked basketball commit (0.9772) in Virginia Tech history between Chris Clarke (0.9765) and current New Orleans Pelican Nickeil Alexander-Walker (0.9860). But just being the gem of one recruiting class isn't all. If he continues to develop like I believe he will, coming in at a pivotal program point, running the team early on, and making his teammates better, Rodney Rice could one day be the face of Virginia Tech basketball itself.
Rice currently plans to take an official visit to Blacksburg on September 3. As he experiences the atmosphere and the people that make our family, Hokies everywhere hope Rice will feel his own story laid before him – as an elite competitor playing college ball in Virginia, rising up and taking down yesterday's blue-blood programs on his way to greatness.