Coming into this season, Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball coach Mike Young said he didn’t think he’d ever had a team as deep as the one he’d coach in 2023-2024.
This afternoon, however, some of that depth dissolved into thin air.
Word started bubbling out that highly regarded Rodney Rice – who was sidelined last year with injuries for most of the season – was leaving the program. It was kind of hard to believe because it didn’t make sense, but right around dinner time Young released a statement saying “Rodney Rice recently shared with me his desire to step away from our program. While his departure is unfortunate, we wish Rodney and his family all the best in the future.”
So he’s gone. And like I said earlier, it makes no sense.
For one, if he wanted more playing time elsewhere, why would he wait until two weeks before the season started to do this? Doing it now means he can’t play anywhere this year, and on top of his injuries last year (he had an ankle injury in August, came back in January, then broke his finger a few days later), he’s going to end up going two years without playing. This at a time when he’s at his youngest and strongest and needs to further develop the skills to take him to the next level.
I can only guess a concern about the next level may be motivating this, but even that makes no sense. Because of his size (6-4, 205), Rice knows to play in the NBA he’s going to have to be a point guard. The Hokies have a very good one in Sean Pedulla, and there’s a young recruit who has impressed his first few months in Blacksburg by the name of Brandon Rechsteiner who is also going to see minutes at the point. Rice was going to see a lot of minutes any way because he’s such a good scorer and defender, but some would be at the point and more would be at the wing.
If that’s the issue, I don’t understand it because in choosing playing time at both point and wing and ending up scoring a boatload of points per game this season vs. sitting at home doing NOTHING…it seems you’d enhance your future prospects in basketball life by staying on the court and scoring a boatload of points.
Some have suggested it’s because the guy who got him to come to Blacksburg – former assistant Mike Jones – left to go back to the DC area (he was the longtime coach at DeMatha) and have a similar role with Maryland. But if that were true, they’d have done all this in the spring so Rice could play this year for the Terps.
Internet sleuths on Twitter have pointed out things between Rice and Virginia Tech seemed just fine as recently as three or four weeks ago, which would indicate something happened very recently, maybe even as recent as this past weekend.
It also would suggest the matter may have more to do with a disciplinary issue than a basketball issue.
If that is the case, however, we will never know the details. Young is an old school coach who would rather cut off his arm than utter a word that puts one of his players in a bad light. He is a player’s coach in the truest sense of the word, and I can’t see him EVER saying anything bad about his players. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t discipline his players; just means you’ll never hear about it from him.
So in summary, I heard a lot of things today about this, I believe very little of what was being said, and what I do think could be possible does not make any sense. The only thing I do know about the situation is that Rice has all the tools to be a game changer for any team he laces ‘em up for. He’s quick, he’s smart, he plays great defense and he can shoot. He will be a force in college basketball somewhere.
But for whatever reasons, that won’t be in Blacksburg.
And that’s really a shame…