Rice “to good to pass up” for Drew Bender

Arizona Sports News online

Drew Bender was the talk of Pinnacle High School on Tuesday after he announced that he will play basketball for Rice University next year. The senior has been the leader of a very successful Pioneer team for the last two seasons and that leadership plus skills on the basketball court made him a very sought after prospect.

Bender traveled to Houston last weekend to take his official visit to Rice and was blown away.

“Every time some asks me what made it for me I give them a different answer because there were so many things,” said Bender. “Everything made it for me. Bar none the best school I’ve been too. As a student and an athlete.”

“I had a feeling I would love it,” Bender added. “I got there and I knew this was a place I could call home.”

The visit to Rice was the first time Bender had ever been to Houston and it wasn’t what he expected. He said he was expecting to see a lot of cowboys and desert in Texas and couldn’t get over how much he enjoyed the city.

Rice was Bender’s second official visit. He traveled to Princeton first and had a great visit but ultimately Rice stood out. It is closer to home and Rice offered the full scholarship compared to Princeton that offered a half. Bender also had one more visit planned to the University of California-Irvine but will no longer be taking that visit because he committed to Rice for the future.

A big reason to why Bender ultimately chose Rice was because of his relationship with head coach Ben Braun. Braun coming off his fourth year with the Owls, led his team to 19 wins in 2011 which was their highest mark since the 2004-05 season. In the process, Braun became one of 12 current division I coaches to have 600 wins. Bender has had a relationship with Braun since his time at California.

“I have known coach Braun since his time at Cal,” mentioned Bender. “I want to play for a winner.”

For Coach Braun and the Owls, Bender will have the opportunity to thrive in a system that is very guard oriented. At Pinnacle, the 6’5” Bender has played point guard as well as shooting guard and small forward. That will most likely be the case as well at Rice.

“They will use me in a lot of spots,” Bender explained. “Being guard oriented I will play the one through the three. Coach Braun is a great coach and will use me wherever he thinks I will be successful.”

Now that Bender has his college decision behind him and his final season at Pinnacle and final months as a high school student ahead of him, he will get to focus on playing the game while enjoying every second in the process. But Bender knows that just because he has made his decision, the work is far from over.

“I feel like a whole new person in the last 24 hours,” Bender stated. “I will continue to develop myself the way they (Rice) want me to develop while giving everything I have to my teammates.”