Throughout the 2014-15 school year, Anne Renninger, the Sidwell Friends varsity girls’ basketball coach at the time, heard weekly from the school’s physical education teachers about a fifth-grader named Kiki Rice. Regardless of the sport she played during PE or at recess, Renninger was told about it.
Four years later, Rice was playing varsity basketball and surpassing even the loftiest expectations for the Quakers. On Thursday night in Tenleytown, the 5-foot-11 guard, ranked by ESPN as the No. 2 recruit in the country for the Class of 2022, announced she would attend UCLA.
“One of the main reasons I chose UCLA was just because of the impact that I thought I could have,” Rice said. “They’re a program hoping to break through to the Final Four, national championship level, and I feel like I can help them get there over my career.”
Rice said the pandemic limited her to just four college visits this fall, including UCLA. She was attracted by the strong relationships between players and coaches, she said, and took note of players spending much of their free time hanging out in coaches’ offices.
Under Coach Cori Close, the Bruins have reached the Sweet 16 in four of the past five NCAA tournaments and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2018 for the second time in program history. UCLA has landed commitments from four top-50 recruits for the Class of 2022.
Rice, who also considered Arizona, Connecticut, Duke and Stanford, is the first D.C. area girls’ basketball player to commit to UCLA in recent history. Rice was born in San Francisco before her family moved to Bethesda about three years later. Her mother, Andrea, grew up in Los Angeles. Andrea and Rice’s aunt, Susan, the former national security adviser and United Nations ambassador, studied at Stanford.
“The coaching staff makes a concerted effort to really invest a ton in the players off the court as well,” Rice said. “I connected with the players — definitely people that I want to play with for the next four years, and I want to spend time with on and off the court. I just felt like I’d be really comfortable and happy there.”
Rice was the D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018-19, her last full season, when she was among the area’s leaders in points (26.8), assists (5.6) and rebounds (10.7) per game while leading Sidwell to the Independent School League AA division regular season title. The pandemic canceled last season, but the Quakers could be one of the country’s best teams this winter.
Rice has been a highly touted prospect since middle school, receiving her initial scholarship offer from Louisville in eighth grade. When ESPN first posted its Class of 2022 rankings in 2018, Rice was ranked sixth and continued to climb.
“Kiki’s going to be a pro,” Sidwell Coach Tamika Dudley said. “She is a program-changer. She’s going to be willing to do whatever it takes to help the team reach any level of success.”