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

Categories: Sports

John Royal
Arsalan Kazemi and assistant coach Marco Morcos, two of the recent Rice basketball depatures
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.

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.

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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.


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.


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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