Tuesday, August 10, 2021
The Kansas men’s basketball program picked up its third commitment in the 2022 recruiting class on Tuesday morning, when five-star prospect M.J. Rice chose the Jayhawks.
Rice announced his decision during an interview with Jason Jordan of SI.com. Rice pointed to the job KU head coach Bill Self and his staff did during the recruiting process, which included a visit to Lawrence in June, as a key factor for him.
“It was great vibes,” Rice told SI.com. “Me and Coach Self, we really talked. Me and the staff, we really got to know each other. Great vibes. The team was great, I really liked the campus.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound wing from Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., joins Sunrise Christian wing Gradey Dick and Garland, Texas, forward Zuby Ejiofor in pledging his services to Kansas.
“There’s no better feeling,” Rice said of making the choice to play at KU. “What it mostly feels like is all my hard work is paying off. This is something I always dreamed of, going to a school like Kansas and just having the opportunity. I look at it as I’ve got one of the best opportunities to just go in and play the game I love, do something I love — and get better at it, really.”
Rice, who originally is from Durham, N.C., picked KU over Pitt, Oklahoma State and North Carolina State. Many recruiting analysts also believed the young prospect had a potential opportunity to jump right to the NBA’s G League once he completed his prep career.
The idea of being at “a big program,” Rice said, added to his desire to play at KU.
“I feel like that’s a place where I can grow,” he said. “Develop my game, develop my maturity, develop as a young man. And I just felt that was the best decision for me.”
Rice enters his senior year of high school ranked No. 15 in the ESPN.com rankings, 20th by 247 Sports and No. 28 by Rivals.com.
The 2021-22 season will be Rice’s first at Prolific Prep, the same school that produced former KU lottery pick Josh Jackson. Rice played last season at Oak Hill Academy — the former home of current KU forward David McCormack — and played AAU ball this summer with Team Loaded.
Regarded as a player who both likes and seeks contact, particularly around the basket, Rice sought to get leaner this summer and showed the ability to blend his power game with a soft stroke from the outside.
Rice wants to further develop under Self’s tutelage once his high school and AAU days are behind him.
“They said I’ll be M.J. Have the ball in my hands,” Rice said of what he anticipates it will be like playing at KU. “I’ll be able to make plays for my team. I’ll be able to go in and get rebounds, just be the dominant M.J. I am.
“But most importantly, one thing about me, I want to lead my team to a championship,” Rice added. “So (Self) said that’d be my biggest role, to come in, make an impact. But also be the leader of the team and lead the team to a championship.”