Even though sophomore Rayvonte Rice revealed Wednesday that he intends to transfer to Illinois at the end of spring semester, the ex-Drake guard still has one difficult decision left to make.
Rhonda Rice, Rayvonte Rice's mother, said her son plans to keep the Bulldog on his chest because it's "part of his history." The other tattoo is also salvageable since Rice will wear No. 24 again at Illinois, but it will still require some reworking.
"He won't get it lasered off," Rhonda Rice said. "He'll just change it. He'll get something wrapped around the 24 to cover up the other part and he'll add the Illini symbol to it."
At the time Rice got both tattoos just before he enrolled at Drake two years ago, both he and his mom thought the school would be an ideal fit. Rice made the Missouri Valley's All-Freshman Team and earned second-team all-league honors as a sophomore, but Drake's inability to contend for the league title or an NCAA tournament berth convinced him it was time to seek a more high-profile program.
Ex-Illinois coach Bruce Weber did not recruit Rice out of high school, a snub that Rice's mom admits stung her son since he grew up in Champaign, Ill., rooting for the Illini. New Illinois coach John Groce did not make the same mistake twice, and it was his recruiting pitch that helped persuade Rice to give his hometown school a second look.
"What helped us trust him were the words he said during Rayvonte's visit," Rhonda Rice said. "He said, 'We both have a second chance to represent the U of I and to make history. The first time you weren't recruited by Illinois and I wasn't Illinois' first choice to be coach either."
Rice will sit out a full year in Champaign, but he could be an impact player for the Illini by the 2013-14 season. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound slasher averaged 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, though he has room for improvement on his outside shot.
How does Rice's mom feel about him getting an Illinois tattoo even though there's always a risk he could change schools again in today's transfer-happy culture? Actually, she has no problem with it at all.
Said Rhonda, "I let Rayvonte make up his own mind because at the end of the day it's his life."