Kiki Rice, No. 2 women’s prospect in ESPN’s class of 2022, commits to UCLA

Kiki Rice, No. 2 women’s prospect in ESPN’s class of 2022, commits to UCLA

Kiki Rice, the No. 2 prospect in the ESPN class of 2022, has committed to UCLA, she told ESPN Thursday.

“This was a really tough decision because of all the great options I had, but I felt like at UCLA I have the unique opportunity to play a key role in bringing a program that’s knocking at the door to their first Final Four and national championship,” Rice told ESPN. “They offered me the best opportunity to achieve my goals while being developed and challenged as both a player and a person.”

Rice was choosing between a group of schools that also included UConn, Stanford, Arizona and Duke. She is the highest-ranked prospect to commit to UCLA since the ESPN HoopGurlz recruiting database was created in 2007.

Rice is a two-time USA Basketball gold medalist who was named District of Columbia state player of the year in both basketball and soccer for Sidwell Friends School. She was the third-leading scorer at the Nike Girls EYBL in July with 18.8 points per game.

Both her parents played for Yale at the college level, with her father, John, a point guard on the basketball team and her mother, Andrea, competing in tennis. She is cousins with two-time NBA All-Star Allan Houston. Her aunt, Susan Rice, was appointed by President Joe Biden as Director of the Domestic Policy Council and was previously the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Her brother, Teo Rice, is on the Yale basketball team.

Standing 5-foot-11, Rice is a natural talent who combines excellent quickness with advanced ballhandling skill, the ability to operate out of hesitation moves with either hand, and deep range on her pull-up jumper. She shows impressive pace splitting ball screens, dynamic shot-making playing off step-backs and uses advanced footwork to create offense for herself and teammates.

“For UCLA fans that haven’t seen me, they’re getting an up-tempo, dynamic, versatile guard who loves to pass, score, rebound and defend,” Rice said. “I’m known for my speed. My strength is getting downhill and operating in transition. Over the past two years I have put a ton of work into my outside game and really improved my shooting. “

While she has been on the radar screen for quite some time, taking part in USA Basketball’s U17 World Cup training camp already as a 14-year-old, Rice needed to navigate the restrictions of the COVID pandemic to rise up recruiting rankings and eventually emerge as the top point guard prospect in the class.

“The past two years have been really tough,” Rice said. “My work ethic and all of the supportive people around me have allowed me to continue to get better despite all of the restrictions. I dedicated myself to getting stronger and working on my outside shot, and feel like I’ve made real progress on both fronts.”

Rice grew up playing soccer, winning D.C. state player of the year and a DCSAA championship in 2019. While she has elected to focus on basketball full-time in college, she is in her final season playing high school soccer now, with the D.C. tournament starting next week. She says her experience on the soccer field has helped her become a better basketball player.

“Quite a few soccer skills like footwork, timing and seeing passing lanes translate well to basketball. Focusing on one sport full-time was a tough decision, but basketball was what I loved and I wanted to give it my best shot.”

UCLA has made a run to the Sweet 16 in four of the past five NCAA tournaments, and Rice is hoping to get the Bruins over the hump and into their first NCAA Final Four during her time at Westwood.

“One of the things that drew me to UCLA was the chance to bring a program on the cusp to its first Final Four. I definitely plan on playing in multiple Final Fours and cutting down some nets.”

UCLA has had quite a bit of success in developing pros over the past few years, with Jordin Canada and Michaela Onyenwere being selected with the No. 5 and No. 6 picks in the 2018 and 2021 WNBA drafts respectively.

“UCLA’s history of great player development was a really big factor in my decision to commit there. I have a ton of faith in their player development plan for me and believe that Coach Cori and the rest of her staff will push me to be the best guard possible.”

Rice’s Sidwell Friends team will kick off its season on Nov. 13 with a game against Maryland powerhouse Paul VI. It will also play in an ESPN showcase tournament January 21-22 in Hopkins, Minnesota, where some of the top recruits in the class of 2022 are slated to participate, including Stanford-bound No. 1 player in the class Lauren Betts of Grandview (Colo.) High School, No. 9-ranked Maya Nnaji (heading to Arizona) of Hopkins and a trio of top-70-ranked players at DeSoto High School in Texas. Sidwell Friends has two other top-10 ranked players on its roster in junior Jadyn Donovan and sophomore Kendall Dudley, daughter of Sidwell Friends head coach Tamika Dudley.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and International teams.

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