Boise State Basketball

Recruiting his son required ‘split personalities’ for Boise State coach Leon Rice

Max Rice, a senior guard at Bishop Kelly High, was among five players who signed to play for the Boise State men’s basketball team beginning with the 2018-19 season. Max is coach Leon Rice’s middle son.
Max Rice, a senior guard at Bishop Kelly High, was among five players who signed to play for the Boise State men’s basketball team beginning with the 2018-19 season. Max is coach Leon Rice’s middle son. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Imagine the quandary Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice faced when his middle son, Max, verbally committed to the Broncos in August.

As a parent, it must have been a proud moment. But as a coach, Rice knew he had to keep quiet. NCAA rules forbid coaches from talking about recruits to the media until they have signed a national letter of intent.

On Wednesday, Rice was finally free to speak about his son and the four other players who will join the Broncos for the 2018-19 season.

“It’s a special day, not only for Max, but all five of the guys who we signed,” Rice said. “... This class that we put together couldn’t have fit us better. We’ve got high-character guys that love to work, love the game of basketball and are going to be successful on and off the court. They are Boise State Broncos through and through.”

Max agreed to join the Broncos as a walk-on, leaving four scholarships open for the team. His dad said he needed “split personalities” to juggle his duties as a father and a coach.

“I didn’t want to influence (Max) too much, because I am around him all the time. But I had a job to do, too, and my job is to get really good players here who fit, and that’s what he became,” Rice said. “He’s worked really hard, and he continues to work hard. I think he loves playing with our guys, and I think our guys like playing with him.”

Max, a 6-foot-4 senior guard at Bishop Kelly High, is the reigning 4A Southern Idaho Conference Player of the Year and a two-time 4A All-Idaho first-team selection. He averaged a league-leading 18.5 points per game last season, guiding the Knights to a third-place finish at the state tournament.

Although he is passing up a scholarship, Max won’t have to come up with tuition money. A tuition-fee waiver is available to all full-time, benefit-eligible Boise State employees, as well as their spouses and dependents. Max will have to pay room and board, however, should he choose not to live at home.

“He’s going to add a lot to this program, and that’s speaking as the coach of Boise State,” Rice said.

Meet the three other incoming freshmen and one junior college transfer set to join the Broncos next school year.

▪ Riley Abercrombie, Forward, 6-8, 205: The senior from Clear Lake High in Houston is originally from Wollongong, Australia, which means Abercrombie is set to become the fourth Aussie to play under Rice, joining Igor Hadziomerovic (2012-15), Anthony Drmic (2012-16) and Nick Duncan (2014-17).

“He’s got that skill level that we love. He’s 6-8. He can really, really shoot it,” Rice said. “Great feel for the game, loves to work, loves to be in the gym, and he’s going to get better and better.”

▪ Jaycson Bereal, Forward, 6-7, 190: Bereal is also a standout football player at wide receiver for Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Okla., and Rice joked that BSU football coach Bryan Harsin said he was excited to get a two-sport athlete. “I nixed that right away,” Rice said.

“All these kids are so special, but this kid, I just love his enthusiasm and his excitement about Boise State,” Rice said. “He’s an elite-level athlete and another kid with a huge upside.”

▪ Pat Dembley, Point Guard, 6-1, 175: He averaged 13.9 points and 4.0 assists per game for Iowa Western Community College last season as a freshman. Over the summer, Dembley was invited to attend the elite Jerry Mullen All-Star Review, which showcases the top junior college talent in the country.

“I always tell our point guards, the No. 1 way you evaluate a point guard is it’s like a quarterback. Does your team win?” Rice said. “He took a team that won the state championship in Minnesota at North High School, and now he’s at a really, really good junior college in Iowa Western, and he’s winning there and he’s leading them.”

▪ Mikey Frazier, Forward, 6-10, 240: Big enough to hold his own inside but versatile enough to play outside the key, the East High senior from Salt Lake City averaged 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. Frazier played club ball for Exum Elite on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit, which features some of the top prep players in the country.

“What a great find by my staff, because he’s a big guy that has tools that people don’t even know about. He can really shoot. He’s got terrific hands. He’s 6-10,” Rice said. “He’s going to have a heck of a year, and he’s going to be one of those kids — and I think a lot of these guys are — people are going to look around and go, ‘Man, where did they get him?’ 

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts

Boise State women sign three

The Boise State women’s basketball team announced the signing of three high school seniors on Wednesday who will join the Broncos beginning with the 2018-19 season.

“We feel like this is one of the most athletic, highly-ranked groups we’ve ever brought to Boise State,” head coach Gordy Presnell said. “I’m really proud of our assistant coaches for their hard work and perseverance in getting this trio. We’re excited for them to be Broncos.”

▪ Rachel Bowers, Forward, 6-3: Last season for Canyon High in Santa Clarita, Calif., Bowers averaged a double-double of 13.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

“Rachel is very mobile, very athletic, and will fit into our system very well,” Presnell said. “We’re anxious for her to get here and be a Bronco.”

▪ Maggie Freeman, Guard, 5-11: She was named to the All-Metro League First Team, helping Southridge High (Beaverton, Ore.) to a 26-3 record, Metro League title and Oregon 6A state title.

“Maggie is a great athlete and can really shoot,” Presnell said. “She’s a lefty, and has played and been recruited at a high level. We’re excited for her to be a part of our team.”

▪ Jade Loville, Guard, 5-10: At Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., she averaged 21.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season.

“Jade is extremely athletic and is very hard to stop going to the rim,” Presnell said. “She should have a really bright, great career here at Boise State.”

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