After Rose-Hulman stumbled out to a 2-5 start this men’s basketball season, it bounced back with three straight victories to even its record at 5-5.
Since then, coach Jim Shaw’s Engineers have lost tough games to Wabash (68-66 on Dec. 20) and Dominican (54-50 on Saturday). They’re now 5-7 heading into a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference home clash with Defiance on Wednesday. Shaw’s club could use another bounceback at this key point in the season and there’s a good chance it will turn to senior Lorenzo Rice to provide a spark.
After all, who else on Rose’s team knows more about bouncing back than Rice?
He’s only undergone four knee surgeries — three on his left and one on his right — in the past four years. All that cutting and probing in his knees caused him to consider a premature retirement from basketball.
Fortunately for the Engineers, Rice’s thoughts of quitting did not last long.
“There were times when I saw a little bit of doubt on his face,” Shaw recalled, “but it always went away pretty quickly.”
“I thought about that a lot,” Rice admitted recently.
“But I was always taught to stick through adversity because it makes you a stronger person.”
Recruited out of Grandview (Mo.) High School to be the next stud Rose-Hulman basketball player, the 6-foot-4 Rice averaged 7.7, 5.1 and 5.0 points per game respectively as a freshman, sophomore and junior. This season, he’s scoring 10.1 ppg after tallying a team-high 18 points against Dominican.
Those may not be studly numbers, but the effort Rice put forth to get them certainly deserves respect.
Rice had one surgery before his freshman season but was able to return to start 21 of 26 games.
“I’m happily surprised, but not shocked, that he is enjoying his senior season,” Shaw said. “When he was a freshman, he was already showing his knee problems. But he was on track to being an all-conference candidate and a conference Player of the Year contender.”
Rice went off that track, however, when he underwent another surgery in the spring of his freshman year.
Then he had two more surgeries as a sophomore. One was for a retorn meniscus in his left knee and the other was for tendinitis and loose cartilage in his right knee.
After rehabilitating again, Rice returned to basketball — again. Asked for an estimation, he said he’s at about 80-85 percent of the effectiveness he would have been at without the surgeries.
“It forced me to become a smarter player,” he admitted, “because I lost some of my athleticism.”
“He needs days off [from practice],” Shaw mentioned. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t be his best on game day. However, he won’t take himself off the floor. I have to take him out of practice. He gets frustrated with me, but he and the team understand why.”
Despite these countless inconveniences, friends never hear Rice complaining about “poor me.”
“I feel blessed to be back on the court and contributing,” said Rice, a chemical-engineering major who already has a post-graduation job lined up in Kansas City.
“Nobody deserves athletic success more than ‘Zo because he has paid more of a price to play college basketball than any player I’ve ever had,” Shaw stressed.
“With what he’s had to overcome health-wise, not many kids would have kept going. It has been extremely frustrating, but he has kept a positive attitude and maintained a commitment to playing college basketball.”
• • •
• Annual apologies — As usual when I and the rest of the Tribune-Star sports staff rank Wabash Valley stories for our Year in Review, we accidentally forget to include at least one worthwhile item.
We’re human, so please don’t think we purposely left out your favorite team’s accomplishments in our 2008 Year in Review that ran Dec. 28.
Among those which deserved recognition but didn’t in our latest Year in Review was the West Vigo baseball team reaching the Class 3A Jasper Semistate and finishing with a 22-6 record in June.
Coach Steve DeGroote’s Vikings, who blanked North Harrison 7-0 in the regional championship game, should have been included in the No. 1 story that was highlighted by Shakamak’s Class A state title and also mentioned semistate appearances by Terre Haute South (Class 4A) and Rockville (Class A).
Another significant story that somehow fell through the cracks Dec. 28 was Terre Haute North’s senior tennis duo of Drew Holcomb and Michael Eberle competing in the IHSAA boys doubles state finals at Park Tudor’s courts in Indianapolis.
Holcomb and Eberle finished fourth in the tournament that ended Oct. 25, compiling a 22-5 record for the season. For that, they deserved recognition in our Year in Review and they didn’t get it.
“We blew it” is not a good excuse, but it’s all we have. If you were a fan of either of these teams or any of the individuals involved, please accept our sincere apology.
And if we left out anything else, please let me know without screaming or TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.