CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After a summer full of viral clips of his chest-to-chest poster dunks and utter dominance to the tune of 30 points a game with Team Wall (N.C.), Marquise Rice thoroughly expected a bull’s-eye.
That part he was prepared for; it’s the size of the bull’s-eye that caught him a bit off guard.
“People just don’t stop coming for me,” said Rice, a shooting guard at Durham (N.C.) Academy. “It’s crazier than I thought it would be.”
Such is the of an elite recruit with “next big thing” buzz playing in his first year at the varsity level.
Rice took it in stride Friday night in the Cavaliers’ 62-57 win over Northside Christian (Charlotte, N.C.), scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds at the Crown Town Classic.
The Cavaliers knocked off Cannon School (Concord, N.C.) 66-60 on Saturday at the event.
“I’ve learned a lot already,” Rice said. “Mostly mentally. I just can’t worry about messing up and living up to expectations; I have to play. Fans from the other teams do the craziest stuff.”
Rice’s greatest teaching moment in that regard came on Nov. 27 when the Cavaliers played at the School of Science and Math (Durham, N.C.).
The Unicorns’ fans wasted little time attempting to get into Rice’s head, chanting “overrated” midway through the first quarter of a tight game.
“That was the first time that happened to me,” Rice said with a laugh. “It was kinda crazy, but it made me want to respond.”
A few plays later, Rice dunked on a Unicorn player and eventually led the Cavaliers to the win, scoring a game-high 23 points.
After the win, Rice said he had the epiphany that composure is key.
“I feel like I was trying to be too perfect,” Rice said. “But the best players in the country mess up, it’s OK. I basically had to stop worrying about what other people think and just go out there and play my game no matter what.”
The renewed mindset is paying off, Rice is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds a game for the Cavaliers, who are sitting at 13-1.
Despite being just 15, he’s already picked up offers and interest from North Carolina State, Boston College, North Carolina Central, Louisville and Providence, among others.
“He’s done a great job of adapting to the varsity level,” Durham Academy coach Tim McKenna said. “You’d never know he was a freshman because of his play, but also because of his leadership ability. The ceiling is just getting higher and higher for him.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY