first_img Related Stories Orange beats Hofstra, Holy Cross in scrimmages with early burst, depth Kevin Rice saw himself as a college basketball player. On the court, he displayed the same seasoned knack for positioning and finishing that helped him excel on the soccer and lacrosse fields.There was only one problem with that, though. Rice is just 5-foot-8.“I never wanted to say it couldn’t happen,” Rice’s father Steve said. “But I just felt that if he wanted to play at the highest level of a sport that would have to be lacrosse because of size.”Entering his sophomore season for Syracuse, Rice is set to play regular, meaningful collegiate minutes for the first time in his career. He’ll do so in his preferred feeding role from behind the net, orchestrating attacks with the skill, vision and quick first step that stays sharp regardless of his size. He started Saturday’s scrimmage against Hofstra and helped key the Orange’s early dismantling of the No. 17 Pride.Rice played just six games last year, and while he doesn’t tell his father about his blossoming starting prospects, when asked what the biggest change in his game from last season is, his answer was simply playing time.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe’s bulked up in preparation, but it’s his finesse and attacking instincts that are allowing him to challenge for a place in SU’s starting lineup.“Even last year as a freshman he was comfortable when he was given a shot,” junior attack Derek Maltz said. “I think the coaching staff and some of the older guys on this team knew what he was capable of doing.”In the first four minutes of the scrimmage against Hofstra, the Orange put the Pride under intense pressure, wildly dashing around Hofstra’s goal.Rice picked out Luke Cometti, who was losing his man and darting toward the goal. Rice tossed a simple pass to Cometti, who put the Orange up 1-0.He calmly exchanged passes with Billy Ward and JoJo Marasco behind the net, and found defense-splitting cutters Cometti and Maltz around the crease.The early goals showcased the time Rice spent in the fall practicing extra shots and cuts with Maltz, but it was also the product of a childhood full of watching his sisters Adrian and Stephanie practice, coached by their father. Car-ride conversations with his father, talking through different scenarios, plays and passing combinations sharpened his touch for the game.“You can find ways to beat defenders even when they’re more athletic than you are by knowing your sets and knowing the skillsets of the guys you’re playing with,” Rice said.Though Rice isn’t physically imposing, he has a pair of 6-foot-3, 200-pound targets in Cometti and Maltz constantly slashing in and out of the slot to feed.With four minutes remaining against Hofstra on Saturday, the Pride was within two goals. Hofstra left its starters on late against a reserve mix for SU, and the Pride was threatening to spoil an otherwise dominant Syracuse performance with a late push.Then SU head coach John Desko sent out some starters. Rice peaked around the left side of the net and scored a goal for his third point of the day.“He’s kind of a quarterback guy behind the goal,” Desko said. “He’s got very good vision, he can finish the ball and with some of the guys being lefties, he’s a righty back there giving us some balance.”Even against faster defenders, Rice’s first few steps are shifty enough to give him separation. And in his renewed natural role, a few steps are all he needs.“He came in this fall, he worked harder than most guys would ever work over the summer,” Maltz said. “He really wanted to come in and make an impact and he’s been doing that since day one.” Comments Published on January 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm Contact Jacob: jmklinge@syr.edu | @Jacob_Klinger_center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

Field smarts, finesse thrust Rice into expanded attack role

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