Brock and Max Rice can’t escape basketball — not that they have any desire to.
From growing up on the sidelines at Gonzaga to countless hours in a gym to prodding late-night lessons from their father — Boise State coach Leon Rice — the two have dedicated their lives to the family business.
All that dedication is paying off this year for two of the top players in the 5A and 4A Southern Idaho Conferences. Brock, a senior guard at Timberline, leads the 5A SIC in scoring at 19.7 points per game. Max, a sophomore guard at Bishop Kelly, ranks second in the 4A SIC at 13.9 points per game.
“It’s pretty much basketball all the time, no matter what we’re doing,” Brock said. “My dad is really good at regulating basketball, then family time. But it always seems to come back to the fact where we’re always playing together, or me and Max are out in the driveway.”
Leon Rice’s two oldest sons were born in Yakima, Wash., where he served as an assistant coach at Yakima Community College before joining the Gonzaga staff in 1998. The Rice boys grew up in the gym and behind the bench in Spokane, serving as ball boys and battling off to the side of practice in brutal one-on-one games.
The duals extended to the Rice household driveway and a Nerf hoop in the family basement, which Gonzaga coach Mark Few dubbed the “School of Hard Knocks” when he’d bring his children over to play.
“We’d always play one-on-one,” Max said, “and it always ended up in a fistfight.
“Then we ended up playing each other last year, Timberline versus BK. It was super enjoyable because I knew I could talk trash and he couldn’t hit me because he’d be ejected.
“It was a nice feeling knowing I wouldn’t get punched.”
All the time around the Gonzaga and Boise State programs gave the brothers a graduate-level course in basketball — the hours needed to hone your shot, the dedication required in the weight room and the basketball IQ vital to succeed.
As the two have matured, they’ve filled in for tired players during Boise State’s open gyms in the summer. Neither has an official college offer, but waiting around for Dad to finish his work allowed plenty of time to develop two of the deadliest shots in the Treasure Valley.
“A lot of people say some guys can shoot and some guys can’t. I don’t believe that,” Bishop Kelly coach Ryan Kerns said. “The reason that shooters can shoot is they practice shooting more than everybody else.”
While both posed long-range threats off the bench for state tournament teams last season, they needed to add to their arsenal in the offseason to take over as the go-to option on their teams. Timberline’s offense runs through Brock, but he’s learned to take advantage of double teams and is averaging 2.8 assists per game, tied for sixth in the league.
And while Max is part of a more balanced offense at Bishop Kelly, he’s created some shots of his own with a team-leading 2.0 steals a game and spent the summer working on his dribble penetration with former Boise State player Coby Karl, now a coach in the NBA Development League.
Leon insists he tried to push his sons to broaden their horizons.
Nothing ever took.
“Me and Max probably spend hours on hours on hours every week in here shooting together,” Brock said from Boise State’s practice facility. “Probably some of our best bonding time is when we just rebound for each other, get in the gym, shoot with each other, play one-on-one.
“That kind of stuff, you can’t put a value on how good that is to spend that time with your brother. A lot of families have something they do together, but really, our lives are basketball.”
Leon said he replaces his coach hat for his dad one to watch his sons play, adding he merely tries to support them and limit post-game talk to the fact he’s proud of them. But before long, they start pestering him for advice, trying to bring out the coach. Max races home after games and said it never takes too much prodding.
“It’s not always basketball,” Max said. “But whenever I need something from him, like if I have a question about what did I do wrong, or what do I need to do better, he’ll tell me. He’ll never beat around the bush. He’ll tell me exactly what I need to do.”
Between the schedules at Boise State, Timberline and Bishop Kelly, Leon regrets he can’t see every game. He said the most fun he ever had coaching was one season with Brock’s youth football team in Spokane.
With Brock and Max leading their teams down the stretch of the regular season, Leon jokes he can’t escape the sport. Following Boise State’s 2 p.m. tipoff Jan. 23 at Wyoming, he hopped on a plane and, still in his game suit, hustled through the gym door just in time for the national anthem before Brock’s 7:30 p.m. game against Eagle.
“This is all we do,” Leon said. “I said to my wife, ‘Some days I wish I could go to a dance recital or something other than a basketball game.’ ”
5A SIC scoring leaders
4A SIC scoring leaders