The list of players to have won both the Euroleague and Eurocup titles has only 13 names. As his team vies to reach the Eurocup Finals this season, Khimki Moscow Region guard Tyrese Rice could be the first player to join that distinguished club by winning those titles back-to-back.
Rice was named bwin MVP of Final Four last season after he led Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown in a thrilling overtime victory against Real Madrid. As Rice basked in the glory at center court in Milan, he shared the spotlight with the little man that has accompanied Rice through all his greatest achievements: his son Ashawn. The photo of Ashawn, then 8 years old, hugging his father as Tyrese lifted his MVP trophy to the sky is one of the iconic images from the 2014 Final Four.
Rice is a rare breed of player whose blazing speed, pestering defense and accurate shooting are a hard combination to match. What Rice does with his time off the court makes him unique, too. He is not only a dedicated father to Ashawn, but Tyrese Rice is a single father, too.
"Growing up, for me, I didn't really have a real father figure around," Rice said. "I felt like having a son, it's very important for him to have his father in his life. No matter what I was doing, he had to be there basically. It was something that I felt I had to do. Something that I felt I wanted to do. And I thought it was needed."
So as Rice has embraced a nomadic lifestyle that has seen him star for six clubs in five countries over six seasons as a professional basketball player, he has made certain that Ashawn could be with him as often as possible. In fact, it's one of the first things Rice discusses with teams that have been interested in his services.
"It means a lot to me that these teams basically put their hand forward to help me," Rice said. "The first thing that these teams do is ask me about my son. They ask me what I need. They ask me about schools. They basically try to make sure that he's taken care of before me and that's how I know that they are really genuinely interested in my well-being and me as a player."
Raising a child in foreign countries is no easy task. Beyond the aid from the team and its staff, Tyrese has also been fortunate to often get support from his teammates and their families too. "It's not really possible for me to do this without the help of other people," Rice explained. "Maybe if we have a practice one day when he's getting out of school or something, having someone being able to pick him up. So the help of other people is what really makes it possible."
As trying as it may be at times, Rice also knows that he is offering Ashawn some very special opportunities to learn first-hand about people from all around the world. "He's seeing things that I've never seen before at a young age. It's my first time seeing it and it's his first time seeing it," Rice said. "It's a great experience for him. He's learning languages. He's getting to meet kids from all over the world. It's a great opportunity for him that he'll appreciate later on in life. He may not understand now, but I'm sure later he will."
What Ashawn already appreciates is getting to see high-level basketball from a front row seat. "He's a sports fan. He loves doing everything that I do," Rice said. "I see him when I'm working out at one end of the basket, he's on the other side trying to do the same thing I'm doing. So it's crazy just to see him growing up. He's just trying to find his way, really."
Rice has started every game for Khimki this season and leads his team in average performance index rating (18.5), scoring (16.7 ppg.) and assists (5.5 apg.). Moreover, Rice is among the competition's best in each of those categories. However, regardless of how things go on the court, coming home to Ashawn helps Tyrese refocus on what is most important.
"You never really get too high with my son there and even when things are kind of going downhill and getting a little rocky, I always come home to my son and he's gonna keep me even keeled at all times," Rice said.
As Khimki and Tyrese head into the second leg of their Eurocup Semifinals series against Banvit Bandirma of Turkey next week, it should be clear to all that Tyrese Rice will give everything he has for another victory, knowing that he is fully supported by his No. 1 fan, his son Ashawn, whom he also gives everything for.