Tyrese Rice has been one of the best playmakers in European basketball for the past decade. Midway through the 2010s, Rice was arguably the most decisive player on the continent. Not only did he earn the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four MVP and 7DAYS EuroCup Finals MVP honors - becoming the only player to do so - but Rice accomplished the feat in consecutive seasons. Rice was a late bloomer who kept improving his game throughout his professional basketball career to unexpectedly become a superstar in his prime years. His relentless road to greatness had a stop in the EuroCup, years before he completely dominated the competition.
First EuroCup experience
After four years with Boston College, Rice started his professional career with Panionios Athens in 2009-10. A year later, he was already averaging 17.2 points and 5.1 assists in German League action with Artland Dragons, reaching the semifinals. His great season did not go unnoticed, and EuroCup powerhouse Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius signed him before the start of the 2011-12 campaign. He made his EuroCup debut against KRKA Novo Mesto on November 15, 2011, and Rice led Rytas to a 65-73 win with 19 points. Rytas went undefeated in the regular season and survived a tough Last 16 group featuring Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, Benetton Treviso and ALBA Berlin to reach the quarterfinals. Rice helped Rytas prevail in a two-game series against Ukrainian side Donetsk, winning by an aggregate score of 145-154. He had 14 points and 5 assists in the second leg, helping keep Donetsk out of reach all game long. In the Final Four in Khimki, Russia, Rytas was defeated 80-70 against Valencia Basket in the semifinals, with Rice scoring 9 points.
What Came After
Rice went on to play for FC Bayern Munich, reaching the German League semifinals and leading his team in scoring (15.8 ppg.) and assists (4.4 apg.). He joined Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv before the start of the 2013-14 campaign, in a move that would change European basketball history. Things didn't start well for Rice in his EuroLeague debut season, averaging just 6.7 points on poor shooting percentages (41.5% 2FG, 31.8% 3FG) in 10 Regular Season games. Rice found his rhythm in the playoffs, averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 assists in a series against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan in which Maccabi stole the home-court advantage to make it to the Final Four. And the rest is history. Rice took Maccabi to the title game with the go-ahead layup in the semifinals against CSKA in a 67-68 win, and he stole the show in the Championship Game. He tallied 21 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead Maccabi to the EuroLeague title against Real Madrid, 86-98. Rice earned 2014 Final Four MVP honors and a superstar was born.
Rice took an offer from Khimki Moscow Region and dominated the 2014-15 EuroCup season like few players have in competition history. He earned EuroCup MVP honors, averaging 17.0 points and 5.5 assists in 24 games, and played at an excellent level throughout the elimination rounds to the crown. After eliminating Zenit St Petersburg, Rice averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 assists in the quarterfinals against a tough Valencia Basket and did even better (25.0 ppg., 5.5 apg.) in the semifinals against Banvit Bandirma. He then earned EuroCup Finals MVP honors after averaging 14.5 points and 5.5 assists against Herbalife Gran Canaria. Rice played the 2015-16 EuroLeague with Khimki, but despite him posting solid numbers (12.4 ppg., 6.1 apg.), his team could not make the playoffs. Rice would keep playing, lining up for FC Barcelona of Spain, Shenzhen Leopards of China, Brose Bamberg of Germany and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens of Greece, where he scored a EuroLeague career-high 41 points in a win against archrivals Olympiacos Piraeus. Rice earned the Basketball Champions League MVP award in 2019 and helped Bamberg win the German Cup title that year. Before that, he helped Maccabi win the Israeli double - league and cup titles - in 2014, and he has EuroLeague averages of 11.2 points and 4.2 assists in 112 career games.