April 19, 2007
Rice University senior basketball player Morris Almond delivered this speech on Wednesday, April 11 during the Rice Athletics Awards Banquet. Almond finished the season as the nation's third-leading scorer (26.4 ppg) and concluded his career at Rice as the school's number four all-time scorer with 1,825 points.
Throughout my four years here at Rice, there has been one particular question that has followed me from the time I committed here as a high school senior to this very day. "Why did you choose to come to Rice University?"
I accepted a basketball scholarship to come here for the same reason many of you came here for your respective sports. I felt that Rice offered me the best combination of academics and athletics. I had never heard of Rice when they first started recruiting me, but Rice's academic reputation, location, and Coach Willis Wilson grew on me over time. I signed my national letter of intent to attend Rice on August 22nd, 2002 following my senior year, and on that day, the question was born.
When I made my decision public, the question took on a life of its own. Family and friends from my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia came first, "Why Rice? Where is it?" My high school and AAU teammates who were signed to play at places like Stanford, Georgetown, and Georgia Tech followed, "Why Rice? Are they even D-I?" My high school coach was next, "Why Rice? You had offers from Indiana, Virginia, and Georgia. Where did Rice come from?" Nevertheless, I followed through with my commitment and began my career here in the fall of 2003.
When I began my freshman season, sitting entire games on the end of the bench, the question reared its ugly head again. "Why did you choose to go to Rice? You can't get any playing time at Rice? You don't fit in there." When I went through bouts of homesickness after the first couple of months, "Why did you go to Rice? You should have went somewhere closer to home." When I ended the first semester on academic probation for below average grades, "Why did you choose Rice? You need to transfer." The question never died. Even worse, during those trying times I didn't have an answer for it. As I continued my time here, circumstances changed, but the question continued to follow my every move.
I finished my senior season a couple of weeks ago. During my four years here a lot around me has changed. Even though my situation is a little different now, the question still remains the same. It's a little reworded, but the same nonetheless. "If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now and seeing how everything turned out, would you still have chosen Rice?" I get asked that one all the time.
I laugh to myself sometimes when I reflect on my four years here. Like everybody, it's been filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. But when I look past all those old trials and tribulations and look at my current situation something kind of hits me. I realized that, despite the countless number of people who questioned my decision to come here, despite my humble beginnings as a confused freshman, that despite all of that and maybe because of all that, at this point in my life I'm right where I want to be.
I'll graduate on May 12, about 31 days, 12 hours, 46 minutes, and nine seconds from now. I'm considered a top prospect for this year's upcoming NBA draft. Coming out of high school, those are the things I really wanted to get a chance to do: get a meaningful degree and play in the NBA. Most people said you couldn't do both, but Rice gave me that opportunity. Would I have been in the same situation had I gone to a different school or a bigger school? Who knows? All I know is that my experience here has taught me how to persevere and remain true to myself regardless of what others around me say.
Rice has given me the avenue I needed to achieve all of my goals and dreams. The question that has followed me since my days, as a high school senior hasn't died, and it probably never will. Wherever I end up when my time here has passed, I'll represent the university from now until forever. Whenever someone asks me why I chose to come to Rice University, I'll be able to answer with pride, "I'm just fortunate Rice University chose me."