2014 Final Four MVP talks fatherhood and career highlights with Joe Arlauckas in a new 20th anniversary episode
In the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's 20th-anniversary season, Tyrese Rice of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens has earned a special place in competition history as the only player to have won a Final Four MVP Trophy and to have scored more than 40 points in a game. On the latest episode of The Crossover, he sat down with Joe Arlauckas for a chat about the highs and lows of his career, as well as how he raised his son Ashawn as a single dad during his many stops across Europe.
Rice scored the go-ahead basket in the semifinal of the 2014 Final Four in Milan to lift Maccabi Tel Aviv over CSKA Moscow and then scored 21 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of the championship game against Real Madrid to capture the EuroLeague crown. When he received his MVP trophy that day, his son was at center court, too, hugging Rice. It was an unforgettable moment for Rice, who turns out to have been an inspirational figure for Arlauckas, too.
Early in their conversation, Arlauckas revealed that after his playing career had ended, he lost his joy for the game, but after watching Rice score 46 points for Boston College against one of the top teams in college basketball, North Carolina, in March of 2008, he found it again.
"I didn't like basketball at that time. I just wanted to get away from it," Arlauckas told Rice. "And I saw you against North Carolina drop 34 [points] in the first half. And man, it was the first time I had been excited about basketball… I had been waiting for this podcast to tell you this. You were kind of the guy that got me back into basketball."
Once they got talking, Rice spoke about how he was introduced to basketball at quite a young age.
"I was probably four or five when I started playing," Rice explained. "I played against the seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds when I was four or five. I played in leagues when I was young. My grandparents have videos!"
Rice became a father to Ashawn when he was 18 years old and that played a big role in where he decided to play college basketball. One reason he chose Boston College was that the road trips to Virginia and North Carolina during the season afforded him a chance to visit his son. Rice said he almost gave up college basketball, but was urged by his mom and Ashawn's mother's family to pursue basketball at the next level.
"They know how appreciative I am," Rice said. "There's nothing that my mom can ask of me that I won't do. There's nothing that her family can ask me that I won't do, just because I understand that without them in that situation, I wouldn't be in the situation I am now."
The conversation hit on the many highlights of Rice's career, which has seen him play four EuroLeague seasons for four different teams: Maccabi, Khimki Moscow Region, FC Barcelona and now Panathinaikos. He has career averages of 11.2 points and 4.2 assists, but his career at the highest level got off to a slow start with inconsistent playing time under Coach David Blatt at Maccabi. There Rice showed a dedication to his craft and level of self-confidence that not only turned his season around and helped Maccabi to the title, but would make Rice a winner everywhere else he played.
"Are you gonna be unhappy and show that your unhappy and not play? Or are you gonna be unhappy and try to fix the situation?" Rice asked himself at the time. "I've always been one of those guys that thinks that the hard work pays, that it's gonna pay off at some point, and I just gotta change my approach. I watched a lot of film and was just like, 'Okay, I can help right here. I can help right there.' I just started playing with ultimate confidence and not worrying about if I was gonna play 5 minutes or 25 minutes. And I think things started to change from there."
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. This season, he is also reviewing the EuroLeague's modern history in its 20th season of this century by talking to the legends who have made the competition more popular than ever.
The Crossover debuted last season with such current stars as Vassilis Spanoulis and Kyle Hines, coaching greats like Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Nikola Vujcic and Robertas Javtokas, among others. Recent guests include coach Sarunas Jasikevicius of Zalgiris Kaunas and Toko Shengelia of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas is available on iTunes, Audioboom, Spotify, Deezer, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, iVoox, CastBox and other platforms.