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Rice Owls

THE LOWDOWN

Head Coach: Willis Wilson
2003-04 Record: 22-11 (12-6 WAC)
WAC Finish: t-3rd
Key Losses: F/C Yamar Diene (7.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg), G Rashid Smith (5.9 ppg, 4.8 apg)
Postseason: NIT: Lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee 91-53 in the opening round

RETURNEES
(returning starters in bold)
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Pts.
22 Morris Almond F 6'6" So. 4.8
35 Jason Bridges F 6'5" Jr. 0.3
2 Walt Chancellor G 6'1" Sr. 0.9
10 Arthur Culver G 5'11" So. 0.0
1 Brock Gillespie G 6'0" Sr. 9.2
33 Michael Harris F 6'6" Sr. 17.5
14 J.R. Harrison F 6'6" Jr. 5.5
31 Greg Killings C 6'10" So. 1.5
34 Jason McKrieth G 6'4" Sr. 15.8
24 Jamaal Moore G/F 6'5" Jr. 3.9
20 Jason Okrzesik G 6'1" So. 0.6
5 Lorenzo Williams G 6'1" So. 2.6
Complete 2003-04 Team Stats
FRESH FACES
41 Patrick Britton F 6'8"
21 Rodney Foster G 6'1"
4 Matt Hagen C 6'10"
13 Paulius Packevicius F 6'9"

When Rice coach Willis Wilson failed to get the head coaching position at Ohio State, for which he was a finalist, he wasn't as bummed as you might imagine. After all, Wilson has things going in the right direction at Rice, where the Owls are poised to field one of their best teams in school history. Rice returns three full-time starters from last year's 22-11 team that lost in the first round of the National Invitation tournament. While getting to taste the postseason for the first time in more than a decade represented a step in the right direction, the Owls are focused on winning the Western Athletic Conference and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1970.

They certainly have the horses to get it done, led by the dynamic senior trio of forward Michael Harris and guards Jason McKrieth and Brock Gillespie, each of whom came to Rice three years ago with lofty dreams of turning Rice into a winner. They've delivered with 41 wins the last two seasons. Harris has led the Owls in scoring and rebounding in all three years on campus and is one of the nation's best-kept secrets. He plays much taller than his 6-foot-6 frame, using his soft hands and great footwork to dominate in the paint. He also has a smooth jump shot when forced to face the basket.

McKrieth is a talented playmaker who does everything well, from shooting to running the offense to being a leader on and off the court. Gillespie didn't shoot the ball as well last year, his first season as a starter, but he's still enough of a threat from the outside to attract attention from opposing defenses.

The center spot will be filled by committee, starting with 6-10 sophomore Greg Killings. He was injured most of last year, but he has a good body and is a good athlete. Freshmen Patrick Britton, Paulius Packevicius and Matt Hagen are big bodies inside. Adding depth on the front line will be juniors J.R. Harrison and Jamaal Moore, each of whom showed promise last year. Harrison started 17 games and combined with Harris to form a small but quick front line.

The graduation of Rashid Smith has left a void at point guard, where sophomores Lorenzo Williams and Jason Okrzesik will battle for the starting spot. There's also a chance McKrieth or Gillespie could see time at the point if neither Williams nor Okrzesik develops.

Click here for complete index of 2004-05 Athlon Team Previews


To purchase the 2004 College Basketball Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

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