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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rice adjusts to quick changes and finds herself in perfect place

Simon Asher

Arizona guard Bria Rice (22) looks to make a pass behind Western New Mexico guard Jeylynn Fields during Tuesday’s exhibition game on Nov. 8 in McKale Center. Rice had three points in the exhibition opener for the Wildcats.

Arizona women’s basketball is trying to return to relevancy in the Pac-12 this season after finishing 11th in the conference last year. With a new head coach, Arizona is looking to rectify its position as a Pac-12 patsy and improve in the 2016-2017 season. One player in particular, Bria Rice, could be a difference maker for the Wildcats this season.

Barnes was the first player new coach Adia Barnes signed to the team after almost signing with a different Pac-12 team last spring. She signed a letter-of-intent to Colorado last November but changed her mind after head coach Linda Lappe resigned last March. After having indifferences with the coaching staff she was granted a release and signed with Arizona.

“I’ve known Bria since she was in the seventh grade, she used to come to the [Seattle] Storm camps when I was a Storm player,” said Barnes. “So I have had a very good relationship with her and her family. Bria went through a very difficult thing. It’s hard to go through any type of transition when you are set to go to one school. Her best friend was also going there too, so that was hard. She is a great kid, a great culture kid and she is a great student.”

“I was not ok with the new coaching staff, and I did not have much chemistry and I felt that was really important,” said Rice. “I think that it is important in basketball to have chemistry with your coaches so that was a big issue.”

The quick adjustment from decommitting from Colorado to committing to the Wildcats was unnerving but necessary for Rice.

“It was a big transition because at first, it was a hard moment because it happened so quickly,” said Rice. “But I ended up finding my new home and it is a great transition. I love where I am at and I love the team.”

ESPN ranked her as the 30th best guard in her class and she is coming off a senior year where she led her team in assists and steals. Last year, she averaged eight points, three rebounds and two steals a game and led Todd Beamer high school to a 25-3 record. Her school finished third in the Washington 4A playoffs.

Her high school career was extremely prolific as the Washington-native earned numerous awards for her basketball abilities. During her last two seasons, she earned the Todd Beamer Coaches Award, Tacoma News Tribune All-Area Basketball Player of the Year and All-City Girls Basketball team.

Rice isn’t the type of guard that’ll wow you with points, rather, she is a beast on the defensive end. Her defensive quickness and pesky ability will create havoc for even the most seasoned of Pac-12 guards. In addition to that her ability to push tempo and set teammates up will be a commodity to a team who struggled with tempo last season.

“She is tenacious defender, she is just someone you want to go to war with,” Barnes said.

“From high school to here it is really fast, it is my type of game because I like to play fast,” Rice said.

While transitioning from high school to college has a learning curve, Rice welcomes the challenge it brings to her.

“From high school to here is really fast but that is my type of game because I am a fast player,” said Rice.

While she is proficient on the hardwood, she may be even better in the classrooms as evident by the accolades she has received. She earned a certificate for the National Society of High School Scholars while also winning the National Academic of Future Medical Scientists Awards of Excellence.

“Right now I am taking Anthropology and Physiology since Physiology is my major right now,” said Rice. “I want to be a pediatrician so this is the right position that I am in and I am real excited to start my new journey.”

“She is getting straight A’s which is an important piece too, because I am trying to establish a culture here and that is part of it,” Barnes said.

Look for the freshman to make a big impact on the hardwood and in the classroom at Arizona and improve the Wildcats in more ways than one.

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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