Rice basketball wasn’t forced to rely too heavily on true freshman this season, giving the Owls younger players time to grow into their collegiate roles.
Rice basketball entered the 2019-2020 season with an established core of key players. No freshman was thrown to the wolves before he was ready. Instead each contributor had time to add weight, learn and gel into the rotation at their own pace.
Zach Crisler, Max Fielder and Quincy Olivari represent the future of Rice basketball. “All three of them have really high ceilings,” head coach Scott Pera said. “They’re really going to help us next year and in all their years here.”
Fiedler saw most of his action early on, cracking the starting lineup for the Bahamas showcase. He had three double-digit rebound games, providing much-needed size for the Owls on the inside. The decision to move to a smaller lineup, essentially inserting Josh Parris in place of Fiedler, saw his playing time diminish.
He finished the year with 23 appearances, averaging 2.4 points per game and 1.7 rebounds. He played more than 20 minutes once and never had many opportunities to get into a rhythm offensively. His value came from his interior presence.
Crisler’s usage was more sporadic. He saw a few minutes off the bench here and there, ramping up to an extended stretch in January where he started seven consecutive games. During that run, he averaged 4.0 points per game, scoring a career-high 11 points in the Owls’ upset of North Texas.
There was a defined role on the court for Crisler through conference play. He wasn’t an integral piece but played meaningful minutes as a starter and off the bench. All that involvement should pay dividends toward his development going forward.
Olivari’s maturation was seemingly the most linear. He played in 30 of the Owls’ 32 games, becoming more and more involved as the season progressed. His shooting stroke off the bench was his primary contribution.
He averaged eight points a game in the Owls’ first four contests of the year despite playing 15 minutes or fewer in all of those games. From there he went from meaningful depth piece to a key cog of the bench, playing at least 14 minutes of the final 11 games, playing a career-high 28 minutes twice, one against Old Dominion and once against Middle Tennesse.
All three had their bright spots, reinforced by positive behaviors off the court. Pera praised their efforts, saying their first season was “‘a roller coaster for them in so many ways. I think all three of them experienced it. They handled it with great maturity.”
That trio, plus a new crop of recruits, make for an encouraging starting point for next season. Rice basketball has two signees in its 2020 class: forward Mylyjael Poteat and guard Cameron Sheffield. They are likely to add another player over the course of the next few months.
It takes talent and execution to win. The Owls are getting close to getting the right bodies to South Main. Now the hard part. Transforming raw ability into a cohesive squad.
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