College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.

On Sundays, we’ll dip into our vast News-Gazette archives and stroll Memory Lane. Today: Happy 27th birthday to Champaign’s Rayvonte Rice, who finished his college career at the UI and is now trying to latch on with the Phoenix Suns.

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Rayvonte Rice holds a copy of the March 22, 2009, News-Gazette sports page after Centennial won the IHSA Class 3A State Championship. At Centennial, Rice averaged 16.8 ppg as a junior in 2009 and 23.9 ppg as a senior. He ended his prep career as the all-time leading scorer in Champaign-Urbana history, tallying 1,810 points.

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Rayvonte Rice (back row, fourth from left) and the rest of The News-Gazette's All-Area boys' basketball team went to the roof for our photo shoot in 2008. To his right: Future Indiana Hoosier Verdell Jones Jr.

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Rayvonte Rice drives past Illinois State guard Austin Hill during Drake's game against in Normal on Jan. 30, 2011. As a rookie at Drake, he set the Bulldogs´ freshman scoring record with 428 points (13.8 ppg), then followed that effort up with a team-leading 16.8 average as a sophomore

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Rayvonte Rice at the Illinois practice facility after transferring from Drake. He was the first recruit of the John Groce Era, announcing his decision on April 25, 2012. “With a new coach I just see it as a new opportunity. It’s a fresh start for me,” Rice said. “And he recruited me at Ohio so I knew him.”

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Rayvonte Rice, left, celebrates as teammate Ahmad Starks (3) and Missouri's Keith Shamburger, right, watch after he made a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Missouri 62-59 on Dec. 20, 2014, in St. Louis. “He deserves it,” Illinois coach John Groce said when asked what went through his head when Rice´s three went through the net as the buzzer sounded, recounting the times he´s ventured to his office at the Ubben Basketball Complex late at night only to find Rice in a full sweat 700 shots deep into a shooting workout all by himself. “Ray has made himself into a shooter. He´s self-made. He´s worked his tail off to add that dimension to his game.”

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Rayvonte Rice scores against Hampton at State Farm Center on Dec. 17, 2014.  the Centennial product left the UI as the second-highest scorer from Champaign County (951 points). He averaged more than 16 points per game in his two seasons at Illinois. 

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From left, seniors Ahmad Starks, Nnanna Egwu, Rayvonte Rice and Ryan Schmidt sing "Hail to the Orange" with Janet Leroy of the Champaign Kiwanis Club, during the 93rd Annual Fighting Illini Men's Basketball Banquet at the I Hotel in Champaign on April 13, 2015. His time at the UI was joyful, he told Marcus Jackson. “The degree is the first thing, and basketball paid for me to get that. I had to take advantage of that, and being one of the first in my family to do that feels great,” the sociology major said. “Coach (John) Groce and them were great working with me and helping with whatever I needed. The coaching staff, the academic staff, I'm thankful to all of them.”

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Rayvonte Rice and his mother Rhonda watch the NBA draft with friends at their home in Champaign on June 25, 2015. Rice wasn't drafted but has played professional basketball since, including productive stops in Italy and Mexico. This summer, wearing No. 41, he has played well for the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas, scoring 19 points in his debut against the Knicks.

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