What makes Leon Rice tick?
As much as he isn’t trying to make a big deal of it, Boise State’s exhibition against Northwest Christian on Saturday is bound to be special for basketball coach Leon Rice.
That’s because he shared a home with No. 5 on the opposing bench for the better part of 18 years.
Rice’s oldest son, Brock, is a freshman guard for the Beacons. After playing at Timberline High in Boise, Brock made his way to Eugene, Ore., to play for the NAIA Division II school. Less than a few months after being away from Boise, Brock returns home in a matchup that couldn’t have been scripted more perfectly.
“It’s a neat storyline for me and him to be able to be on opposite sides of the benches against each other, and we want it to be a fun situation,” Leon said. “(But) I don’t want it to be a big pressure situation where it puts him in a role he’s not really in.”
Brock is averaging 2.7 points after three games as he tries to find his groove with the No. 12-ranked team in its division. He’s a young player who isn’t the focal point of a offense that averages 103.3 points per game and has five players scoring better than 11 points a game.
“When they roll in a gym, they don’t look like an NAIA team,” Leon said. “Usually when you play an NAIA school, they don’t have the height or the size, but this team does. And sometimes that’s good to go against because it’s more realistic to what we’re going to have to go against. And in another way, it’s a difficult card.”
Boise State freshman guard Malek Harwell noticed a little extra pep in his head coach’s step when the Broncos began preparing for their final exhibition game last Sunday.
“He hasn’t mentioned it yet, but you know we have a feeling for it, because we had practice Sunday and he was really energetic and hyped,” Harwell said. “You can tell he’s really trying to get this win.”
Northwest Christian’s trip to Boise has significance other than the homecoming of Brock Rice: Luke Jackson, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft who played parts of three years with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Developmental League, is the Beacons’ head coach. Jackson, the Pac-10 Player of the Year at Oregon in 2004 and a D-League All-Star in 2010, was recruited by Leon when he was an assistant at Gonzaga.
“Luke Jackson’s a big Stampede guy. He’s been a guy I’ve known for a long time,” Leon said. “There’s a lot of neat things about this game.”
Boise State is holding a Father-Son Day promotion for Saturday’s game. A pair of tickets cost $14 when ordered on bronco sports.com/tickets (promo code FAMILY).
Michael Katz: 208-377-6444, @MichaelLKatz
Boise State basketball this weekend
▪ Men: vs. Northwest Christian, exhibition, 4 p.m. Saturday, Taco Bell Arena
▪ Women: vs. Alaska-Fairbanks, exhibition, 2 p.m. Sunday, Taco Bell Arena