In the midst of a challenging recruiting environment, Rice basketball has finalized a seven-member signing class for the upcoming 2020-2021 season.
Those attending a Rice basketball game next season might have to familiarize themselves with the roster. Eight of the 15 players who saw action in at least one game for the Owls’ last season have departed the program. Five exhausted their collegiate eligibility. Three transferred.
The large exodus necessitated a large influx of talent. 6-foot-10 Texas Tech transfer Malik Ondigo, who sat out last season due to transfer rules, will give the Owls a more physical presence inside. Joining him are seven new additions, each pulled together through a variety of connections.
“It all comes back to one thing, relationships,” head coach Scott Pera said when asked how he’d constructed this signing class. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work a lot of places around the country. From LA to Phoenix to Philly to Houston, I’ve got a lot of major cities covered.”
Graduate transfer Cavit Ege Havsa brings a much-needed veteran presence. He was discovered through an assistant with connections to Turkish international players. He’s 6-foot-4 with good hands and will fill in at the four behind the departed Drew Peterson.
Alongside him, third-year player Riley Abercrombie was recruited by Pera out of highschool. He’s a 6-foot-9 transfer from Boise State who was a standout at Clear Lake before moving onto the college ranks.
Guard Jake Lieppert came out of the blue. “I got a random text from basically a friend of a friend in Phoenix,” Pera said. A few months later, Lieppert checked all of the boxes and has made the jump from JUCO to Rice.
Rice was on guard Noah Hutchins for some time. Likewise, they initiated contact with VMI transfer Travis Evee soon after his name hit the Transfer Portal. Guard Cameron Sheffield, the first commitment in the class, and fellow high school addition Mylyjael Poteat round out a balanced group. All with different talents, but the same core identity. They fit at Rice.
On the court, this group will allow Pera to add more size. It wasn’t uncommon for Pera to trust a “small ball” lineup last year, trotting out five guards with Josh Parrish or Robert Martin at the five. Ondigo, Abercrombie and the 6-foot-9 Poteat will help ease the Owls’ size deficiencies.
Having the bodies and getting them to work in concert are different challenges, but getting the pieces in place is the first step.”We still — I feel — have enough experience to help us out as we move along here,” Pera said confidently. Havsa is in his fifth year. Ondigo is entering his court and Abercrombie his third. Chris Mullins and Payton Moore have played meaningful minutes already at Rice. Things will be different, but the cupboard isn’t empty, not anymore.