The men’s basketball season is fast-approaching, and the team will aim to improve upon last campaign’s win total of just seven. Scott Pera is back at the helm in his second season as head coach of the Owls. Pera says he hopes to see steady growth as the season goes on.
“I hope that we get better every week, every month,” Pera said “I just want to see improvement.”
The makeup of this team looks markedly different from last year’s squad after nine departures during the offseason. Two seniors graduated and six players, including last year’s entire freshman class, transferred away from Rice: Connor Cashaw, Austin Meyer, Grant Youngkin, Miles Lester, Malik Osborne and Najja Hunter.
Redshirt sophomore guard Josh Parrish is now eligible to play after arriving from Texas Christian University last year and sitting out one season due to NCAA rules. Senior guard Oliver Xu rejoins the Owls after two seasons off from the team, and Rice adds one incoming transfer: graduate forward Jack Williams from the University of the Pacific.
In losing the players that it did, Rice also lost much of its scoring production. Five out of the six top scorers from last season are no longer on the team. Junior guard Ako Adams, who was second on the team in points per game last year, will have to maintain and potentially improve his production. New scorers must emerge as well. Pera said scoring will likely come from Adams, Williams, Parrish and two junior forwards: Tim Harrison and Robert Martin.
Parrish could be to be a key cog for the Owls this season. He is a former 4-star high school recruit and was ranked among the top 150 high school players in his class by Rivals. Martin says he believes Parrish can make a difference this year.
“I’m expecting [Parrish] to do big things,” Martin said. “He’s a freak athlete and I think he has really high potential. I think he’ll be excited to get back on the court with us.”
While Pera declined to name a projected starting lineup for opening night, he did say that Rice would employ a deep rotation.
“We’re going to play 11 guys,” Pera said. “We played 11 in [the preseason trip to] Spain. I think the gap is very thin between the top and the bottom of our roster in terms of talent.”
The Owls bring in five freshmen for this campaign. Forward Quentin Millora-Brown is from Lorton, Virginia, guard Chris Mullins hails from Grand Prairie, Texas, guard Payton Moore comes from the bright lights of Los Angeles, California, forward Drew Peterson is a native of Libertyville, Illinois and last but not least, guard Trey Murphy’s roots are in Durham, North Carolina. According to Murphy, this freshman class is already close.
“We have a lot of chemistry together,” Murphy said. ‘We’ve been with each other since July 1 and it may not seem like a long time, but I can definitely call those guys my brothers. We definitely show it on the court.”
The Owls begin the season with nowhere to go but up. According to Pera, the team’s strengths include its shooting ability and its ability to play at a fast pace.
Pera and other players have called Martin, Adams and Parrish the leaders of the team. Martin described the Owls’ biggest strength as “togetherness.”
“It’s a lot different than previous years,” Martin said. “We were always a team, but this year everyone’s taken themselves out of the picture and we’re all working towards one goal.”
Rice opens its regular season at home in Tudor Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Saint Leo University.