King Rice and Hawks Learning Lessons in MAAC Play

One thing Monmouth head coach King Rice knew when they first watched the MAAC tournament in Springfield was the difference in physicality from the Northeast Conference.

However, Rice and his team – the 16th youngest group in the country – found out how physical the MAAC would be facing a familiar foe.

“I think we got hit in the face by Quinnipiac,” Rice said. “That really opened these guys’ eyes. I think our kids, we worked hard on trying to be a physical team and I think we fit in with the physicality, but we’re a younger group of guys.”

“We’re learning on the fly and we got some big kids, they’re just young kids. We’ve been taught a lesson in a lot of games and hopefully someday we’ll be the ones teaching the lessons.”

In their first season in MAAC play, the Hawks have been on the receiving end of a few lessons, but also have taught some team’s lessons as well. Monmouth defeated Siena for their first MAAC victory to start January and on Sunday they dealt Canisius the lesson that no lead is safe in conference play.

Thanks to two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds by Andrew Nicholas, as well as a rare missed free throw by Billy Baron, Monmouth enters the week 3-5 and looking to improve.

Most of that improvement has to do with their top weapons, Towson transfer Deon Jones has met expectations and leads the team with 15.6 points per game.

“He dominated a lot of practices last year,” Rice said. “We were hoping that it wouldn’t be the dominate in your off year and you come on the court and play and you’re not the same kid, but Deon has been exceptional for us on both ends.”

“I think when he plays well along with Andrew Nicholas, we’re a lot tougher to beat. The thing with Deon is you don’t have to call a lot of plays for him, he can just get baskets because he’s a good player.”

Towson transfer Deon Jones (pictured) has played as advertised for Monmouth head coach King Rice, leading the team in scoring this season. (photo courtesy: Monmouth athletics)

While Jones has been able to create his own scoring opportunities, Rice admitted that he should probably run more set plays for Nicholas, nicknamed “Red.”

“I probably need to get him started,” Rice said. “I probably should run more plays for him. I think earlier in the year, he was scoring the ball pretty well, then when you’re starting to get into league play people watch a lot of tape.”

While teams have focused in on trying to stop Jones and Nicholas, Rice has learned plenty about his freshman class, but wants to make sure that the upperclassmen duo lead the way for the first-year players to contribute around.

“I think all of them are going to continue to get better,” Rice said of his freshman class. “Some nights Josh [James] and then the last three games before [Sunday] Josh and Justin [Robinson] probably were playing as well as anybody on our team.”

“I think our potential is sky high, just because our kids are getting a lot of experience early in their careers, by the end I think we have a chance to be a tough team.”

Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]

One thought on “King Rice and Hawks Learning Lessons in MAAC Play

  1. well written article. i was surprised coach did not praise the improvement of max dileo. they are continuing to improve and are very young. if their young bigs could make some leaps this team could be very dangerous, because they have a lot of perimeter options and weapons. i am very pleased with the progress thus far and am hoping for a big win over fairfield tonight at the beautiful mac. go hawks!


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