The BSL season won’t be decided for more than four months.
But it is becoming clearer with every passing week that there is one player, more than any other, who will determine the outcome of this year’s Final Four.
Each team still has 19 regular season games to play and a playoff series to overcome to reach June’s season-ending tournament.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem too early to assert that Hapoel Holon’s volatile forward Glen Rice Jr. can single-handedly carry his team to the championship, and just the same send its hopes up in smoke.
His talent may be unquestionable.
But there are countless doubts regarding his temperament.
Rice is simply unstoppable when he’s on his game. He is averaging a league-best 24.9 points, as well as 7.2 rebounds, in 31.6 minutes per game, with Holon winning eight of 10 BSL contests since he joined.
Rice scored 43 points in just his third game for the team, a win over Maccabi Ashdod, before netting 28 in a victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv and finishing with 36 in a tight defeat against Hapoel Jerusalem.
There is, however, another side to Rice. The fact he is playing in Holon rather than the NBA or a big European club, is a testament to the massive gap between his outstanding ability and his lack of composure and maturity.
A prime example of that could be seen in this past Sunday’s win over Bnei Herzliya. Rice led five Holon players in double figures with 18 points, but was also responsible for one of the season’s most bizarre moments.
With 3:15 minutes to play in the first half, Rice, frustrated at being called for traveling when he thought he was fouled, kicked the ball deep into the stands to everyone’s astonishment.
Moments earlier, the officiating crew, clearly sensing he was about to reach boiling point, spoke to Holon head coach Dan Shamir and asked him to try and calm his player. That of course proved to be of little use, and Rice was fortunate to only receive an unsportsmanlike foul and avoid being ejected.
“It comes from a good place,” was how Shamir explained Rice’s moment of madness. “He really wants to win and plays hard in every game. But he needs to control himself in situations like that.”
Rice, the son of three-time NBA All-Star Glen Rice Sr., is only in Israel due to a combination of coincidences and his capricious nature.
Neither Holon, nor several teams from Israel’s second division, had any interest in the player ahead of the season.
That obviously had nothing to do with his skill-set, and everything to do with his criminal record.
In March 2012, Rice was kicked off the Georgia Tech basketball team, less than a week after a shooting incident outside an Atlanta nightclub led to criminal charges. Rice was charged with permitting unlawful operation.
He was leading Georgia Tech in scoring and rebounding, but had numerous disciplinary issues that had already resulted in an indefinite suspension the previous month.
He went on to play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA D-League and after some impressive displays was selected with the 35th overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rice was then traded to the Washington Wizards for the 38th and 54th selections, but averaged just 2.9 points in 11 games before being sent back to the D-League.
He played five more games for Washington in 2014/15, but was waived by the Wizards in January 2015 and has since been unsuccessful in his attempts to return to the NBA.
He has done himself no favors with his conduct off the court.
In October 2015, Rice was shot in the leg outside of a restaurant and was charged with “reckless conduct and possession of marijuana”, according to an Atlanta Police Department report.
Rice’s next clash with the law came in July 2016 when he was booked for felony robbery, aggravated battery and possession of marijuana.
The most recent incident came less than a year ago when Rice was arrested following a brawl at a strip club. Police said a bouncer tried to calm Rice down after he was unhappy with the service. Somehow the situation escalated and Rice allegedly punched the bouncer in the face twice. Rice was charged with battery.
In August of last year, Rice joined TNT KaTropa in the Philippines. He bolted back to the US less than two months later in controversial fashion.
During Game 4 of the playoff semifinals, Rice snapped, shoving Kevin Ferrer of rival team Barangay Ginebra before throwing the ball at the fallen 6-foot-4 forward. Rice was ejected and his team lost the game and the series.
Holon only decided to roll the dice on Rice after Jabril Trawick failed to settle at the club and was released in October, less than a month into the season.
Shamir’s gamble on Rice has so far paid off in superb manner, but it could backfire in explosive fashion without a moment’s notice.
Shamir has earned a reputation of a coach capable of reining in problematic players, but he has probably never met a personality quite like Rice.
By deciding to bring him aboard and giving him freedom on the floor, Holon’s hopes rest on the Rice roller-coaster. For better or for worse, it promises to be a spectacular ride.
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