LAS VEGAS -- In February, Glen Rice Jr. was barely playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Developmental League. A few months later, he was the team's leading scorer in the playoffs as they won the D-League championship. It was such rapid progress that Rice's coach, Nick Nurse, told Michael Lee of the Washington Post that he'd never seen a younger player grow faster.
Nurse is now an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors. I had a chance to catch up with him following the Raptors' Summer League victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
BF: I read that you said Glen developed faster than anyone you had seen in your years of coaching. In what ways did he develop so quickly?
NN: Well, part of it was, this was in February or late January, he went from not playing to being the leading scorer in the Finals. That's a pretty short window for any rookie to do in the D-League. The biggest thing was he really figured out how we wanted him to play and learning how to fit in that role.
BF: Were you surprised that he went the D-League route?
NN: It's funny you said that. Somebody was discussing with me last night, and he said, 'If Glen Rice didn't have those issues at Georgia Tech, he would have been a first-round pick. But somebody else at the table said, 'You know what? He may not have surfaced at all out of there.' So going [the D-League] route with everything that happened to him and whatever, it may have been better for him anyway.
BF: Did you ever talk to him about the Georgia Tech stuff?
BF: I know he doesn't like to talk about it much. Was that part of the reason you also didn't want to talk to him about it?
NN: Yeah, I think, from my standpoint, this wasn't really rocket science or anything like that. My goal was, I wanted to go to him and say, 'I don't care about any of that stuff. All I care about is what you do for this team. That's it.'
BF: Was there anything about him as a person that you weren't expecting?
NN: He's an awesome kid. He's awesome. He's fun to coach, he's competitive, his teammates like him. He's awesome.
BF: So you weren't surprised by him as a person?
NN: Oh no, I was super surprised that the issues were there. After I've had him now, I'm super surprised that happened, or whatever happened.
BF: I understand you spent a lot of time working on his skills. What kinds of things did you work on with him?
NN: We tried to smooth out his shot, just a more fluid motion. We also worked a lot on his ability to attack the basket, Eurostep, slowing down, moving side to side, putting the ball on the floor, a lot of that. He's a really good finisher at the basket, but those are the few things we worked on. Also, his defense.
BF: Yeah, that's the one thing a lot of Wizards coaches have said that he's got to work on. What do you think he's got to improve specifically there?
NN: Well, I think he's better than people think he is. Athletically, he moves quirkily, quirky-looking, but he's fine. For me, I think he kept people in front of him pretty good. I know he's going up a level, so you always need to keep improving.
BF: Do you think more people are going to go the D-League route after how he did?
NN: I think it may raise the profile of going that route. I don't know if anyone will actually go by [that way]. But I don't think most people are aware you can even do that. Now, they're aware.
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