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Rice closing will scatter star hoopsters across NYC

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On June 21, Prep Rally brought you the story of a last ditch effort to save Brother Rice (N.Y.) High from closing, a protest effort that included former star Kemba Walker taking up a bullhorn just days before he was taken ninth overall in the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. A week later, attention has turned to what will become of the treasure trove of players and coaches who have helped make Rice a basketball powerhouse … and a threat in other sports, as well.

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Brother Rice basketball player Dayshon Smith

Brother Rice basketball player Dayshon Smith

According to the New York Daily News, the school will close for good on Thursday, and the current crop of Rice players -- a group which reached the 2011 Catholic High School Athletic Association Sectional Finals against fellow hoops powerhouse Christ the King -- is already resigned to a future in a different and strange place next year.

"It's awkward because Rice has a good tradition, and now I have to find somewhere else to go and it's hard," junior basketball player Dayshon Smith, who is pictured above, told the Daily News.

"The last day of school was rough because everyone knew it was the last day, and it was sad," he said. "I'm mad [because] I was looking forward to keeping the [Rice] tradition next year."

Smith told the Daily News that he is considering attending either Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep or Cardinal Hayes (N.Y.) School in the Bronx. One of his teammates, Tyler Wilson, echoed the same two programs.

While those two players might have heard from the same programs, there's little question that other members of Rice's 12-man varsity squad will land at other programs across the New York City region. The sudden dismantling of such a prominent program is unprecedented in New York, a hoops hotbed with hyper-competitive programs throughout the five boroughs and in nearby New Jersey.

Yet recruiting departing Rice players also holds a risk, with faculty members and coaches -- head basketball coach Dwayne Mitchell, who has continued to work on saving or re-opening the school rather than search for a new opportunity for himself, prominent among them -- aiming to re-open the school  at a less costly site in 2012 after additional fundraising. At least one current Rice athlete, baseball player Luis Rojas, said he will be playing elsewhere in 2011, but would definitely return if the school was re-opened in 2012 or beyond.

"When I came to the school, I only talked to freshmen," Rojas told said. "Then, after I started playing baseball, all of my (teammates) brought me in ... I felt as though all the kids in school were my brothers."

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