Women’s basketball’s Kiki Rice earns Gatorade high school athlete of year award
Incoming freshman guard Kiki Rice holds her Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year trophy. Rice has previously received five awards from Gatorade for her achievements in both basketball and soccer. (Courtesy of Gatorade)
By Francis Moon
July 20, 2022 2:33 p.m.
This post was updated July 24 at 10:42 p.m.
Kiki Rice has collected one more accolade before donning the blue and gold for the first time.
The incoming UCLA women’s basketball freshman guard was named the 2022 Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year on Tuesday night, the most prestigious recognition in high school sports. Rice was presented with the award in Los Angeles by Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt at the first in-person ceremony since 2019 and was recognized at the 2022 ESPYS on Wednesday.
The distinction marks Rice’s sixth from Gatorade, as she was previously named the District of Columbia Player of the Year in both girls’ basketball and soccer twice each as well as the National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Rice also became the ninth girls’ basketball player to earn the honor since its inception in 2003 and the first in UCLA’s program history.
Rice, the top-ranked women’s basketball recruit in Bruin history, said that despite the school being across the country from her family, she felt UCLA would be a perfect new home to grow as a person.
“I really wanted to make the best decision for me, and I thought that UCLA – the coaches, the team – that was a special environment,” Rice said. “I didn’t want to let distance prevent me from making what I felt was the best decision.”
After committing to join the Bruins last fall, the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2022 averaged 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.6 steals per game as a senior at Sidwell Friends School, leading her team to a 28-0 record and a division tournament championship. Rice is coming to Westwood with no shortage of achievements on the court, as she has multiple gold medals to her name after winning international tournaments with both the under-16 and under-18 United States national teams.
Even still, the guard said she acknowledges the work she’ll have to put in to continue her winning ways with the blue and gold.
“There’s a big difference between high school and AAU basketball versus college basketball, so just getting used to new tendencies and the speed of the game. At college, it’s a lot faster,” Rice said. “It’s just another level in college.”
UCLA closed last season by missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-2015 campaign, followed by a loss in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament to South Dakota State. However, the team will have a different look this year with the return of players from injury as well as the introduction of the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Rice leads a group including fellow top-50 recruits Gabriela Jaquez, Londynn Jones and Christeen Iwuala as the newest members of a team that lost seven players to graduation.
Despite the injection of youth and new faces, Rice said she doesn’t see it as a disadvantage and has high hopes for contributing to a comeback season for the Bruins.
“There’s going to be an adjustment there, but it’ll be really good energy to have in the gym,” Rice said. “A lot of hard workers, so I’m really excited for the season ahead.”
Contributing reports by assistant Sports editor Grace Whitaker.