CHAMPAIGN — While the Illini were in Hawaii last week winning the Maui Invitational, Rayvonte Rice was in Champaign enjoying his week off from school and going through some workouts.
The transfer from Drake, who is sitting out this season per NCAA rules, spent time in the gym last week with graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Russomano.
“He lifted weights and did a lot of conditioning while we were gone. It was more of that stuff than basketball stuff,” assistant coach Paris Parham said.
Parham puts Rice through a rigorous workout a couple of hours before each home game to fine-tune some of Rice’s weaknesses.
“Every game day, he does a 35- 40-minute workout after shootaround. He’s been great; he’s getting better every day. He works at it. We’re really concentrating on his ball handling and his midrange shot,” Parham said. “I just feel like he comes to work, he knows he needs to use this time to get better. Hopefully he can keep this energy up. The season will get long to him. Sometimes it’s hard for guys who are sitting out because it’s so long and you don’t get to play. But he’s been great so far.”
Rice has been consistent with his approach in practice and challenges the regulars at Ubben between games.
“He’s a competitor, a high-level competitor. He wants to win every drill, everything we do, he tries to compete to win,” Parham said. “We’ve been on the road a lot so we haven’t been able to do much, but Friday and Saturday, we’ll get after it pretty hard. Practices are his game days.”
The 6-foot-4 Rice said he weighed 237 pounds earlier this week. He was 257 when Parham arrived late this summer.