Rice basketball is in the midst of a rebuilding effort led by a host of young players hoping to bring success back to South Main. It’s going to take some work.
The 2018-2019 season has been filled with plenty of learning opportunities for Rice basketball. The Owls won their first three games at Tudor Fieldhouse but struggled to find their rhythm throughout the next month, sliding to a 5-8 record entering the Christmas holidays.
Five wins put the Owls in the bottom half of the conference with their first Conference USA game looming on Dec. 29 against North Texas. The Mean Green sit at 12-1. They’ll be a tough test for Rice, but the road to get there hasn’t been much easier.
Penn, Houston and Wichita State all made the NCAA Tournament last season and BYU and UCSB have both put together winning seasons so far. Rice played all five of them. “If you go down the list, that schedule has been pretty challenging,” head coach Scott Pera said following their loss to Omaha, “There’s a lot of good teams on there that we’ve had to play. Hopefully that will help us in conference [play]. That’s part of the plan.”
The plan, as Pera refers to it, is in its developmental stages. Outside of Jack Williams, Ako Adams and Robert Martin the Owls key pieces on the floor are almost entirely freshman. Rice is led by starting guard Chris Mullins in scoring (13.1 points per game).
Fellow freshman Drew Peterson and Quentin Millora-Brown have earned starting spots with freshmen Josh Parrish and Trey Murphy III playing meaningful minutes off the bench. The youth permeating the roster is a challenge for Pera and his staff, one he hopes will pay dividends down the road. “It’s a bit like a rollercoaster,” Pera admitted, “I feel our guys are connected. I feel we have shown a lot of growth.”
The team is in the early stages of that developmental process. It’s going to take some time. Pera knows that, and he knows now is the time to press in rather than throw in the towel. “You gotta believe in your guys. You know that they’re capable… What can you do? Get back in the gym and keep working,” Pera proclaimed adamantly.
The rebuild won’t happen overnight. Rice is working and they’ll continue to be tested from this point onward. There are going to be more licks with high points mixed in. It’s going to be every bit as much the rollercoaster Pera described. The Owls will have to do their best to make sure they don’t get stuck in a loop.
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