North Carolina native Marquise “MJ” Rice prides himself on defying the odds and being an example for others within his community. At this stage, Rice is no stranger to the spotlight as he emerged on the recruiting trail from an early age, earning his first D-1 offer while in 8th grade. His production and trajectory was on a fast track until he suffered a lower leg injury that kept him out his sophomore season. After going through rehab and working his way back onto the court, Rice made the decision to transfer from Durham High School (NC) to the prestigious Oak Hill Academy (VA) in order to take his game to the next level.
While Rice is still getting back to 100% health, he hasn’t wasted any time getting back to a form of his dominant self. After a stellar performance at The St. James NIBC Invitational, Rice reminded coaches and opponents just how talented and versatile of a prospect he is. Measuring at 6’5” and weighing in at 205 pounds, Rice has the build and intensity to take it to bigs inside and the foots peed to hang with guards on the perimeter. A positionless player in every positive sense of the word, he is in the process of refining his ability to stretch the floor and generate space off the bounce as a hybrid guard/wing/forward. While he’s playing well now, Rice is poised to have a breakout senior season once fully healthy.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Rice discusses his decision to join Oak Hill, what he’s learned from his time with USA Basketball, his recruitment update, various off-court interests, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect MJ Rice, from Henderson, North Carolina:
Pro Insight: Can you share a bit about your background?
MJ Rice: I’m MJ Rice, I’m from Henderson, North Carolina. I go to Oak Hill, class of 2022. My story I would say is I didn’t really start taking basketball serious until my 8th grade year going into high school. Before that, basketball was fun to play, but I didn’t really look at it from a business aspect in terms of ‘I can go to the league, I can make money off this, I can help my family and my kids when I get there.’ Yeah, so 8th grade is when I started taking it serious. I stay with my dad, it wasn’t easy growing up, but we made it happen and without him I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I feel like a lot of the stuff he taught me is coming into play as I get older and when I go out into the real world dealing with business or people. He always taught me, “you’ve got to have a certain mindset to make it in this world,” especially dealing with people or dealing with stuff internally. You’ve got to have people to lean on, but more importantly you’ve got to trust God, you’ve got to put God first. You’ve got to have a positive mindset through your journey, whatever that may be, but mine is basketball so I really have to have discipline and a good mindset. That’s something he always taught me. I feel like if I didn’t carry that on up until now then I wouldn’t be as far along as I am now. Especially given, the “MJ Rice, he’s top-10 in the country. Goes to Oak Hill, he’s a good kid” talk. I feel like if I didn’t keep that up then I wouldn’t be where I am now. So those were some things that he taught me growing up and I really appreciate him because look how it turned out to be. So that’s a basic background of myself and how I got started.
PI: Do you have any siblings?
MR: Yeah I’ve got four brothers — two older and two younger.
PI: Do they play sports as well?
MR: Yeah, my oldest brother played in college, I forget what college he played for, it was a while back. My second oldest brother didn’t really play basketball, but he did it for fun. The brother under me, he’s around 9 years old and I don’t know if he wants to get into sports like that. My youngest [brother] is 2 years old, he’s got a whole lot of life ahead of him to figure out what he wants to do. More than likely they will play basketball, they see their big brother doing it so more than likely they’ll want to do it, too. Growing up and seeing my brother play basketball, I was like ‘I definitely want to play basketball as well.’ So I feel like that will happen for them, too. But, yeah I’ve got four brothers, two older and two younger.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
MJ: I think my 7th grade year I played one year of football and that was it for me. It was a little local team where I’m from, we didn’t play a lot of games. It was just something fun to do. My dad was like, “you should try it, it will help you on the basketball court” so I was like “O.K., I’ll give it a try.” I did one year and that was it for me, I couldn’t do it anymore.
PI: Why did you stop?
MJ: I just didn’t like playing football. I mean for me it’s [football] weird. Now recently I’ve been getting into football more, but back then I just didn’t get it. There was a lot going on. I always enjoyed basketball. I like dunking on people, making moves, and going to the basket rather than just going out and hitting people. I never like going out and hitting people, it’s boring to me.
PI: That’s surprising, you’re a pretty physical player.
MJ: I think I got that when I was younger in my 7th grade year I was playing 17U so I was always playing older guys. Even when my dad and I would go play pickup, I was always a little boy playing against grown men so I kind of got that toughness from them. From my 7th grade year on I always played 17U so I’ve got the kid side and the grown-man toughness side, too.
PI: Describe your game — what are your greatest strengths on the court?
MJ: I feel like since I’m a big guy I can play all five positions if it comes to that. I don’t like banging in the post because I’m a shooting guard. I would say where I mostly feel comfortable is at the 1-through-3, but if I’ve got a smaller guy on me I won’t even hesitate to take him in the paint and just kill him. I won’t hesitate. On defense I can definitely guard every position, that’s my strongest point on defense, my versatility. I can get to the basket easy, can fight through contact, I’m an and-one player. I’m like a slasher. I can pass, shoot, create my own shot, make plays for my teammates, I can push it — I can do it all, really. That’s just how I look at my game. Because of my size I get the best of both worlds really, instead of just playing a guard. I look like a big man, but because of my guard skills I’ve got the best of both worlds, really.
PI: How about areas for improvement?
MJ: I would say definitely becoming a better PG and making the right decisions. Picking the right shots to take. I would say creating my own shot, but I feel like I kind of do that well. So I would say my IQ, my PG IQ as a guard. Seeing the whole floor, breaking down my defender as I’m dribbling, like seeing how he’s guarding me and ways I can beat him. So basically I would say just mental — just focusing more on my mental, watching a lot of guys, a lot of combo guards, how they operate and break down their defender. Yeah that’s what I would say.
PI: What are some underrated aspects of your game?
MJ: Because I’m a big guy, a lot of guys look at me as a post player, but when I get out on