Sir’Jabari Rice and his shot fake are for real

Guard+SirJabari+Rice+goes+in+for+a+layup+during+the+Texas+mens+basketball+game+against+Texas+Tech+on+Jan.+14%2C+2023.+Texas+beat+Texas+Tech+72-70.

Lorianne Willett

Guard Sir’Jabari Rice goes in for a layup during the Texas men’s basketball game against Texas Tech on Jan. 14, 2023. Texas beat Texas Tech 72-70.

Mantra Dave, Managing Editor

If there was a national men’s college hoops sixth man of the year award, Texas graduate guard Sir’Jabari Rice would be a serious contender for the theoretical honor. The former New Mexico State Aggie has emerged as one of the Big 12’s best players off of the bench. 

Awards or not, Rice’s experience in the big moment is playing a crucial part in the Longhorns’ long journey to the NCAA tournament.

In five years at New Mexico State, Rice made three all-Western Athletic Conference teams, went to four NCAA Tournament games and scored over 1,100 points. 

Now a guard for No. 10 Texas, Rice has shown the value of that experience, becoming a cornerstone of the Longhorns’ rotation and mounting a case as the nation’s most valuable sixth man. 

Averaging 10.1 points per game, Rice leads the Big 12 in scoring among all bench players. 

The Big 12 is widely regarded as the best college basketball league in the nation, boasting six teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 25. No other conference has more than four. As the premier sixth man in the nation’s best conference, Rice has a solid case for national recognition.

Though Rice has not started a game for the Longhorns this season, he routinely closes games, showing the coaching staff’s trust in him during high leverage situations. 

Close contests in the Big 12 often come down to knocking down free throws, where Rice excels, shooting 85.2% from the foul line. That mark ranks fourth in the Big 12 and leads the Longhorns, edging out super-senior guard Marcus Carr’s 81.2%. 

In the last 20 seconds against Texas Tech, Rice nailed five of six free throws to help Texas close out a tense 72–70 home victory. Against then-No. 17 TCU, Rice went three of four from the charity stripe in the last ten seconds to secure a 79–75 win. Rice was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 16 for his performances against TCU and Texas Tech. 

On the defensive end of the floor, Rice routinely guards the opposing team’s most dangerous backcourt player, with matchups against All-Big 12 caliber guards like Mike Miles of TCU and Oklahoma’s Grant Sherfield in crunch time. Rice’s performances during the most important moments of games are no accidents. 

“(I’m) trying to find a way to help the team,” Rice said in a Jan. 14 press conference. “Just try(ing) to be that guy that does whatever we need when we need it.”

Though Rice’s ability to stay calm during important moments stands out, his game does not lack flashy moments either.

“Jabari has the best shot fake, I might go on record and say, in the history of basketball,” graduate guard Carr said in a Jan. 9 press conference.

Despite Rice’s contributions to the Horns this season, he isn’t resting on his laurels. Although he put on a strong 18-point showing against Texas Tech, where he had his second highest point total of the season, Rice is still not satisfied. 

“I think I played okay; everybody else thinks I played great,” Rice said. “We have higher expectations.”