Former Gonzaga women’s basketball players Zykera Rice and Chandler Smith will continue their basketball careers overseas as both have signed professional contracts for the 2019-20 season.
Rice will play for Peli-Karhut out of the Finnish Korisliiga, the top-tier professional basketball league in Finland. After a second-place finish in league play during the 2018-19 season, Peli-Karhut advanced through postseason playoffs and claimed the league championship with a 3-1 series win over Lappeenranta W. Peli-Karhut, which is based in Kotka, Finland, finished the 2018-19 season with a 19-8 overall record.
“I am beyond excited to start my career in Finland, and I’m looking forward to being able to submerge myself in another culture and experience new things,” Rice said. “I feel like playing at GU has prepared me in more ways than I can imagine for whatever comes next. I am confident in my skills, and I am ready to showcase them.”
Rice completed her career with 1,061 points to rank 20th all-time, and her 50.6 career field goal percentage ranks fifth in the program. The Tacoma, Wash., native was named First Team All-West Coast Conference in 2019 along with WCC All-Tournament, and she led the Bulldogs in points per game (15.0), rebounds (5.8) and blocked shots (0.8) while ranking second in field goal percentage (52.3). Rice led the Bulldogs to three WCC regular-season championships, two WCC Tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Tournament while helping GU to its highest ranking in program history at No. 12/11. Rice also excelled in the classroom, completing her bachelor’s degree in international relations in three years while pursuing her master’s in organizational leadership in her final season.
“I am really happy for Zykera,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “It’s always very exciting when a player signs their first professional contract. I think she will thrive in the professional setting overseas, and we are looking forward to watching her make an impact.”
Smith will play for the Snæfell women’s basketball team out of the Urvalsdeild (Iceland-Dominos) League, the premier women’s league in Iceland. Last season, Snæfell just missed playoffs after finishing fifth overall in league play with a 16-12 record. The club is based in Stykkishólmur, Iceland.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to play for a competitive club in such a beautiful country,” Smith said. “Gonzaga will always be home for me, and I am forever grateful for the experience and preparation this program has given me for this next step.”
Smith was instrumental in Gonzaga’s historical 2018-19 season as the Brewster, Wash., native ranked second in scoring at 9.2 points per game in a team-best 28.6 minutes per game. She is a two-time All-WCC performer, picking up First Team All-WCC in her final season. Smith was part of three WCC regular-season championships and two WCC Tournament titles along with three NCAA Tournament appearances. Smith also garnered multiple awards for her academic performance as she was a three-time All-WCC All-Academic performer, a two-time DI-AAA Scholar Athlete as well as a First Team Academic All-District performer. Smith graduated in 2017 with a degree in marketing followed by her master’s in business administration in 2018, and during the 2018-19 season she was pursuing her second master’s in organizational leadership.
“Chandler is a great fit for her club in Iceland,” Fortier said. “We have had other players play with Snæfell, and they enjoyed their experience very much. I think Chandler will give her team a nice boost, and she is going to help them compete for a win every night.”
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