Reggie Rice knows how to work a room.
Greenbrier's Reggie Rice, already one of the top football players in Columbia County, has become one of the top basketball players. Rice spent the first half of the summer in basketball camps and playing in summer leagues, then started training for the football season.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Greenbrier junior strolled into the gym at Harlem for the Evans-Harlem basketball game Nov. 22. He walked around shaking hands and giving hugs to what seemed to be the entire Harlem student body.
It was an odd sight considering the Harlem faithful booed him every time him touched the ball a week before.
Harlem fans chanted, "Reggie's from Grovetown," as Rice scored 27 points to help the Wolfpack beat the Bulldogs 59-37.
"You have to put everything in perspective," Rice said with a huge, always-present smile. "It's just part of the game, the fans yelling. I know most of those guys."
On Friday, Rice received more of the same attention from the Evans student section, as students held up colorful signs such as "Cooked Rice." The Greenbrier fans that helped fill the gym responded by chanting Rice's name.
This is all becoming the norm for Rice, who is quickly earning a reputation as the county's premier athlete.
"We weren't really sure what to make of him," Greenbrier football coach Mickey Derrick said. "We knew that he was a heck of an athlete, though. You rarely see a player that young have so much ability."
Rice burst onto the scene in 2003, becoming one of the county's top linebackers as a sophomore, leading his team in tackles and being named All-County.
"He is an incredible athlete," Evans football coach Marty Jackson said before the football season. "He has great sideline-to-sideline speed."
Rice averaged around 11 points a game for the Wolfpack and topped off the school year by finishing fourth in the state in the triple jump.
"I guess you can say that I had a pretty good year," Rice said. "I still have a lot of hard work to do, though."
Rice embraced a busy summer full of work.
He spent the early part of the summer visiting basketball camps at Georgia Tech and Duke, playing a little Amateur Athletic Union basketball and competing with the Greenbrier summer league team. The back end of the summer was spent training for football season.
"He has so much going on," Greenbrier basketball coach Casey Dees said. "But what makes Reggie great is that he can handle that huge of a workload."
It's a work ethic Rice learned from growing up in a military family.
"I have definitely learned to work hard and to have discipline," said Rice, who also holds a part-time job.
His load didn't lighten up when school started this fall.
Rice chose not to enroll in the stereotypical "jock" classes, filling his slate with Advanced Placement chemistry and literature. His grade-point average and SAT score are high enough to already qualify him to play collegiate sports.
"Some of the guys on the team think I'm crazy taking some of these classes," Rice said. "But you have to challenge yourself."
Rice replicated his sophomore success on the gridiron this past season, once again pacing the team in tackles and landing a spot on the All-County team.
He added 456 yards rushing, including a memorable 148-yard performance in a 35-28 win over Lakeside. Rice scored three touchdowns in the second half to cap off a 21-point rally to beat the Panthers. His 148 yards were a career high and the eighth-highest single-game total in school history.
"It was one of the worst losses we have ever had," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said after the game. "We couldn't stop Rice. He just ran over us."
Rice jumped into basketball as soon as Greenbrier's football season ended.
Through four games, Rice has doubled his average from last season and leads the area with 23.3 points a game. He also averages more than 10 rebounds a game.
"I worked hard this summer at my game," Rice said. "I think going to these basketball camps helped me learn a lot of new moves and gained confidence."
Dees says Rice is one of the most versatile players he has ever coached.
"Last season he played point guard," he said about the 6-foot, 190-pound Rice. "This year he has played power forward and the one, two and three spots. He plays around the basket like he is a foot taller than he is. He also rebounds as good as anyone."
The scoring punch Rice has provided an injury-plagued lineup has Greenbrier fans hoping for the first basketball playoff appearance in school history.
"The sky is the limit for this team," Rice said. "We have a lot of potential, we are disciplined and we are like a family."
Rice's future has always been bright as a football player, but his rapid improvement in basketball will force him to make decision sooner or later on which he will focus on in college. Rice's mother says he should focus on football and begin his paring down of colleges soon.
"I'd love to go to a Georgia Tech or a Duke or any Division I school," he said. "But I know I might have to make a choice on which sport I will play. But I'm having too much fun right now."
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