could have just stuck with her meal ticket. One of the nation's top five basketball recruits from the Class of 2022 had multiple scholarship offers on the table and her future was secured.
But the senior at prestigious Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.)
decided to stay loyal to her soccer teammates, coaches and the sport itself.
It helped her secure 2021-22 MaxPreps National Female Athlete of the Year honors.
"It's an incredible honor to win this award," Rice said last week by phone at the USA Basketball camp in Colorado. "We had such an amazing year in basketball and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But I'm so glad I stuck with soccer. It gives validation to play multiple sports and be a total athlete."
Rice, a fluid, heady and versatile 5-foot-11 point guard, was even better than advertised on the hardwood, a maestro for the 30-0 Quakers, who had a dream season after not playing in 2020-21 due to the pandemic.
Her leadership and cool under fire, not to mention season averages of 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, led Sidwell Friends to a slam dunk No. 1 ranking in the final MaxPreps Top 25.
The Quakers won the DCSAA title, beat nine out-of-state teams, including a pair of wins against No. 2 DeSoto (Texas) and one each over No. 4 St. John-Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) and No. 6 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.).
They beat two more out-of-staters to close the season while taking the inaugural State Champions Invitational in Tampa, Fla.
The UCLA signee was also MVP of the McDonald's All American game, scoring a game-high 17 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds, leading the East to a 95-75 win.
"That was a lot of fun," Rice said. "The whole season was truly incredible. After not having a season, I don't think any of us imagined going undefeated and winning a national title. It took a ton of hard work and we had some learning moments, but we definitely put it all together as a team."
To beat 11 other individual finalists for the MaxPreps award — most who were multi-sport athletes — it was her prowess on the soccer pitch in the fall that vaulted Rice to the top.
She scored a team-high 15 goals for the Quakers
, who went 14-4 and captured a state crown for the second time in three seasons (there was no 2020 season due to COVID).
In 51 career games, Rice scored 97 goals — including 42 as a freshman — and added 34 assists. Sidwell Friends soccer coach Ryan Alexander moved Rice from striker to defensive midfield this season because that's where the Quakers needed her the most.
"If Kiki decided to focus on soccer instead of basketball she'd be a national-level player, no question," Alexander said. "She's very special on and off the field.
"Like the basketball court, she has such a great understanding of space and movement on the field. Plus she's just a gifted athlete. So fast. Over 20 yards, she wasn't going to be caught."
She has deep competitive and athletic genes as well.
Both parents played collegiately at Yale, her dad John in basketball and mom Andrea at tennis. Her brother Teo finished his freshman basketball season in the winter, also at Yale.
Being around competition so long — she started playing basketball at 5 and soccer at 7 — Rice is comfortable around games. It explains perhaps why she's so cool under fire and sees the field and court so well.
"Of course I get frustrated and feel pressure," she said. "But as a point guard I need to be a leader, stay composed and not get too high or low."
That said, there's no one more competitive, Alexander said. That may explain why she's had only one basketball poster hanging in her room while growing up.
"Damian Lillard," she said. "I like his mentality. I like the way he carries himself. He's always locked in. Focused."
Rice decided to focus her own path to UCLA, near where her mother was raised. She has some family and friends in the region, but she takes on this new challenge in new surroundings. She acknowledges that D.C. and L.A. are two vastly different regions and as a top recruit, much will be expected.
"I embrace it," Rice said. "Getting recognition definitely adds to the pressure and expectations, but it just means I have to work that much harder. It's going to be a big adjustment, but I'm going to college with an open mind, willing to work and learn."
Rice beat out a gifted array of female stars, including single-sport generational talents such as volleyball's Elia Rubin
of national champion Marymount (Los Angeles)
, basketball's Juju Watkins
of Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)
and distance runner Natalie Cook from Flower Mound (Texas)
. Jillian Albayati
also received votes after breaking gender lines while going 12-0 as a pitcher for Anaheim
, one of the top lower division baseball teams in Southern California.
2007-08 — Nneka Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas)
2008-09 — Jordan Hasay, Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
2009-10 — Chiney Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas)
2010-11 — Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
2011-12 — Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.)
2012-13 — Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit
2013-14 — Ariana Washington, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
2015-16 — Mikayla Pivec, Lynnwood (Bothell, Wash.)
2016-17 — Tara Davis, Agoura (Calif.)
2017-18 — Alissa Pili, Dimond (Anchorage, Alaska)
2018-19 — Alissa Pili, Dimond
2019-20 — Paige Bueckers, Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)
2020-21 — Paige Morningstar, North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.)