What the Hell's Going On with Rice Basketball? Their Best Players, Connected to Former Coach Marco Morcos, Leaving in Droves
Just what is going on with the Rice Owls men's basketball team? It was supposedly a program on the rise the last time they played a game in Houston. But since that time, only about six months, the team has become not only a national laughingstock, but also the poster child of an issue known as up-transferring.
John Royal Arsalan Kazemi and assistant coach Marco Morcos, two of the recent Rice basketball depatures
The Owls have lost six players since last the team played. These aren't players who lost their eligibility or graduated. Five of the players who requested the school release them from their scholarships did so so they could transfer to another school, and one player departed to turn pro in his native Lebanon. These weren't just bit players. Five of these players were supposed to lead the basketball team this season to heights not seen by Rice basketball in several generations.
These transfers and departures might be innocent -- especially in the case of David Chadwick, who transferred to Valparaiso in search of more playing time. But the other five departing players are all tied, in some fashion or another, to Marco Morcos, who until last April was an assistant coach at Rice until his contract was not renewed.
The most recent departure, and the one that's perhaps the most devastating to the team, is that of Arsalan Kazemi. Kazemi, the team's best player, left the team last week and transferred to Oregon. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds the past two seasons. The native of Iran was essentially the heart and soul of the team. He was the roommate of Omar Oraby, the 7-4 center who was a native of Egypt. Morcos helped to recruit Oraby, and Morcos and Kazemi were good friends.
Oraby departed in September, and he ended up at USC, a school he visited with Morcos after departing Rice. Both Kazemi and Oraby can only play this season if they are granted hardship waivers by the NCAA. The hardship waivers are supposedly only granted because of financial hardship, injury or illness to the player or a family member. And seeing as how the families of Kazemi and Oraby live in the Middle East, it's kind of hard to see how or why such waivers would be granted, though Kazemi seems to think he'll qualify.
Also departing the team was forward Ahmad Ibrahim from Lebanon, also recruited by Morcos, who left to play pro ball in Lebanon. He was joined by point guard Dylan Ennis, recruited by Morcos, who transferred to Villanova, and forward Jarelle Reischel, also recruited by Morcos, who transferred to Rhode Island. David Chadwick, not recruited by Morcos, transferred to Valparaiso in search of playing time. As with Oraby and Kazemi, Ennis, Reischel and Chadwick will only be able to play this season if they're granted hardship waivers.