What the Hell's Going On with Rice Basketball? Their Best Players, Connected to Former Coach Marco Morcos, Leaving in Droves




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John Royal
Rice coach Ben Braun is left wondering whether he'll be able to field a team.
The situation that's seemingly in play with the Owls is known as the up-transfer. This is happening at an ever-increasing pace, and it involves a player upgrading his team or his conference. Kazemi and Oraby transferred to major programs in a major conference. Ennis transferred to Villanova, a major basketball school in a major college basketball market in a major basketball conference, the Big East.

There's nothing wrong with up-transferring in and of itself. But according to SI.com and Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, there is recruiting, tampering, and illegal activity involved in up-transferring (not that Krzyzewski is any kind of saint when it comes to taking up-transferring players). And the matter of five players associated with one former assistant coach all deciding during one off-season to transfer or depart a program, with four players going the up-transfer route, well, that might be cause to wonder if there's something a little irregular going on (the word is, however, that Kazemi's actions are all his own.)

Rice head coach Ben Braun and the Rice administration are quiet on the matter and have refused to comment besides stating they wish the players the best, and that this is part of a national trend.

And they're right, this is part of a national trend, but to put all of the blame on the national trend is a bit disingenuous. Not every basketball program is losing six players in one off-season. Not all of the programs have their departures linked to one former assistant coach, or to a former assistant coach who has a history of bending the rules when it comes to recruiting.

It's always going to be hard for Rice teams to compete in the major sports. But if the likes of Vanderbilt and Stanford and Northwestern can find ways to be competitive playing in much tougher conferences, and with standards as rigid as Rice, then the Owls should also be able to compete.

Just last March it looked as if this might be the year the Owls basketball team mattered nationally. They are mattering nationally at the moment, though not in the fashion they intended to matter. And they're hoping this mattering doesn't bring some added extra attention from the NCAA.

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3 comments
WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

Agree that in the end, this has Marcos written all over it somehow.  

 

Don't agree that Rice should drop in grade.  What Rice should drop is Greenspan the AD. They need someone to move the program forward.  Greenspan's here to retire quietly and secure jobs in the AD for as many of his family as the school will hire.

big.red.guy
big.red.guy

I would be willing to bet that Rice uncovered the fact that Marcos is nothing more than a street agent with no ethics, and they were not willing to do the sort of things those guys do. Unfortunately, other schools do, and that is one reason Rice has had little success on the court. It really is time for Rice to drop down to Div.II or Div.III where they can be successful running a clean program.

stitchedj
stitchedj

The upside is, Rice is considered among the best preps schools in the country by major college basketball programs.

 

Seriously, this is the kind of thing the NCAA is supposed to be all over, but probably will never get involved, in part because Rice -- being self-contained, rich and sort of a wallflower in the athletic world -- doesn't seem interested in pressing the issue.

 

At any rate, Ben Braun hired Morcos, so this mess is ultimately his responsibility. They got rid of Coach Willis to bring this guy in, and his plan for upgrading Rice to basketball relevance has been a laughable disaster.

 

Essential to the whole problem is that Braun has brought in recruits who place no value whatsoever on the opportunity to get an education at Rice. That's the one selling point, the one advantage that Rice has over most programs, provided you recruit the right kids. Get rid of this mercenary coach and his mercenary band of assistants and transfer-happy players.

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