Nov. 14, 2012
HOUSTON, Texas – Rice University head men’s basketball coach Ben Braun announced the signing of four players to National Letters of Intent for the 2013-14 season on Wednesday, as the early signing period opened.
The Owls add 6-5 wing Drew Bender (Phoenix, Ariz./Pinnacle High School), 6-8 forward Denzel Davis (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland Prep), 6-10 center Andrew Drone (Junction, Ill./Gallatin County High School) and 6-3 guard Marcus Jackson (Acton, Calif./Pacific Hills High School).
Braun praised the newest Owls, noting “Our class is comprised of talented players, as well as accomplished student-athletes who will excel in the classroom at Rice. They are high character young men who represent a solid nucleus for our future.”
Drew Bender averaged 17.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a junior for coach Charlie Wilde at Pinnacle High School. He led the squad to a 24-5 record and an appearance in the 5A-II state tournament semifinal.
Last summer, the 195-pound guard competed for The Magic AAU team in Arizona as well as Los Angeles’ Compton Magic program and earned a pair of top-three rankings from state recruiting services.
“Drew has the ability to play any position on the perimeter,” added Braun. “He shoots the three, assists, and can attack the basket very well. His team will compete for a state championship. We’re pleased to sign a player of his caliber as he is currently ranked one of the top players in the state of Arizona.”
Bender noted, “I have known Coach Braun since his time at Cal. I want to play for a winner. I’m truly blessed to play for him and his staff, be around great players and go to a great university like Rice.”
Denzel Davis enters his senior season at nationally ranked No. 17 Lake Highland Prep after helping the team to a 29-4 mark a season ago. The 215-pound forward tallied 8.5 points and led the team, coached by former NBA player Jeff Turner, with 7.9 rebounds and more than a block per game to carry his team to the Florida 4A state championship game.
In his sophomore season, Davis’ team won a district championship. Davis then competed with AAU team Q6 All-Stars last summer.
“Denzel is one of the most versatile players to sign with us at Rice,” said Braun. “He can stretch the floor offensively and has exceptional ball handling skills for a player of his size. He blocks shots and rebounds the ball well, which will help us on the defensive end. He comes from a highly successful program, currently ranked 17th in the nation.”
Davis commented, “I chose Rice University because it is the perfect blend of basketball and academics. I really get along well with the current players and the other commits. Coach Braun and his staff have made me feel like a part of the family, and I trust that Coach Braun has the best plan for me and my college future.”
Andrew Drone notched 23.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks per game as a junior for coach Robert Patton at Gallatin County High School. He led the team to a 16-8 record, including a 9-2 mark in league play. The 270-pound center was named to the Associated Press Class 1A second team all-state and also competed for the AAU Southwest Illinois Jets.
Braun added, “Andrew brings a new dimension to our team. He will be a huge post presence for us in the interior. He rebounds at a high level and also possesses a nice touch for a post player. Our current coaches and players are excited to have Andrew join our program. His enthusiasm for Rice and his teammates will be contagious.”
Drone remarked, “I’m super excited to become an Owl! I look forward to playing for Coach Braun and representing Rice at the highest levels.”
Marcus Jackson enters his senior season at Pacific Hills High School and coach Ivan Barahona as a top-25 player in California. Last season, he averaged 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists as he led the West Hollywood-area team to a 30-5 record and CIF-Southern Section 4A title. He also competed for Pump and Run Elite AAU team.
“Marcus is one of the top scoring guards we’ve signed at Rice,” Braun said. “His ability to shoot the three, penetrate to the basket, and distribute to his teammates will give our offense a big lift. He also has the toughness to be a lock-down defender. He comes from an excellent high school program which should compete for a state championship.”
Jackson noted, “Rice was the perfect fit for me academically and athletically. I believe Coach Braun’s style of play fits me best, and I know he will make me a better player and person. My dream is to hopefully one day make it to the NBA, and I believe Rice gives me a great chance to pursue all of my dreams. My future teammates and coaches treated me like family when I came on my visit.”