Rice Thrilled About Opportunity

In the eyes of many Darius Rice never reached his full potential at the University of Miami. The former McDonalds All-American arrived in Coral Gables four years ago accompanied by a load of expectations, but he departed this past season trying to shake the label of being a one-dimensional player.

Projected as a lottery pick coming out of high school, Rice was bypassed in last month's NBA draft because popular opinion is nobody has room for a 6-9 kid that can't defend or put the ball on the floor.

But that didn't include the Miami Heat who recently invited Rice to form part of their summer league team. Rice, who was also courted by the Portand Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns to play summer ball, will now have a chance to get a training camp invite if he impresses the Heat brass in the coming weeks.

And more importantly a crack at the NBA if all goes well.

"They talked to me and said they need a guy who can rebound, play solid defense and shoot the ball," said Rice. "They especially want somebody who can hit the outside shoot - I think I can be that guy."

Although the team wasn't looking to take Rice in the draft the Heat came away impressed after a predraft workout. Rice performed in front of Heat president Pat Riley and several scouts.

"I played against Luke Jackson and they told me I did very well," says Rice, who was expecting to be drafted late in the first-round. "The Heat just wants to make sure I work hard. From everything I've heard they liked what they saw - now the rest is up to me."

Should Rice earn a roster spot in the fall he will probably be battling Rasual Butler, a restricted free agent, and Malik Allen for playing time. Early indication is Miami likes Rice's desire to shoot the ball when open and his ability to run the floor.

"I feel this is a great place for me," said Rice. "I'm working hard to make sure I stick around. I'm hungry to prove a lot of people wrong."

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