Anthony Rice feels at home here.
Since the second grade, when Rice first discovered this niche that provides him solace, he has visited his quiet retreat often.
Once there, his subconscious takes over.
Using a fluid stroke honed from years of self-teaching combined with inherent skill, Rice creates one soft arc after another. High, low, short, and long. Each springs from his fingertips with a purpose in its variety.
He is in a rhythm. The image begins to take shape.
Rice then begins drawing and shading the hair, moving next to the neck, jaw, and nose. The curves he creates give way to straight lines. Thin, light, thick, and dark. Each goes toward an ultimate goal -- to make his mother, Marie Avery, smile.
And smile she does. Marie's grin can be found permanently in the now-framed recreation of her senior picture that Rice drew for her 50th birthday present. That joy also exudes when she talks about her son, the sophomore shooting guard for the Memphis Tigers.
"He always liked to draw," Marie says. "He was in the fifth grade when I really noticed how good he was. He loved to get sketchpads and draw in them," Marie adds. "He would draw the photos in magazines."
The place Rice visits when drawing is his own imagination. It's a different kind of zone from the one so often referred to on the basketball court.
Rice loves being there too. But he doesn't need the adulation or the crowds. He simply works hard for himself, for his family, for his coaches, and because it's the right thing to do.
"I really don't care about all the notoriety," Rice says. "I don't really need to get my name out there. I just want to win a championship. I'm here for the team."
This self-effacement may be why he found basketball, the one sport where the quiet and introspective Rice could play alone for hours, working on individual skills until he was ready for the team concept he's now adopted.
"Basketball took up -- takes up -- most of my time outside of art," says Rice, an art major at the U of M. "I started shooting every day after school. They had to make me do my homework. I loved the game so much."
The extracurricular practice soon included summer teams and camps. During his junior year at North Clayton High in Atlanta, Rice first visited Memphis, and found a mentor he could trust in Tiger head coach John Calipari. At Calipari's camp, Rice one day found himself one-on-one with the coach.
"I did a couple of drills with Coach Calipari," Rice says. "I liked his style. That's a main reason that I committed to Memphis."
"Anthony and Calipari just saw something in each other," Marie adds. "They just clicked."
Perhaps that's why you rarely hear Calipari mention Rice's name in admonishment. In fact, it's seldom that one hears Rice's name mentioned at all, whether by fans, media, or even the Memphis staff, though he has started almost every game, is a team leader in minutes, averages 10 points, and is one of the Tigers' best defenders and top outside shooters.
Rice, who cites his career 10-rebound effort in the 2002 NIT final as his favorite collegiate game, plays on and plays hard, unfazed by the lack of attention. Perhaps that's why he is the epitome of a Calipari-style player: team-first attitude, maximum effort and emotion, and a desire to win.
"If people start talking about me being a hero [on the court], I ain't really into all that, I never have been," Rice says. "If that attention comes, then fine. But I don't need to get my name in the spotlight."
Rice's basketball training began with solo shooting sessions and the tough-love discipline of his older brother, Tremayne, who had left his high school team. He didn't want Anthony to follow that path.
"My older brother instilled a work ethic into me," Rice says. "He stayed on me. He didn't let me cry. And he made me lift weights. I'm still skinny but I was like an Ethiopian. I was so small."
Marie, a longtime nurse, saw it firsthand on those days when she wasn't at DeKalb Medical Center. "After [leaving the team], Tremayne emphasized to Anthony that this is the way that you can go to school," Marie says. "He was very influential."
Rice says he was recruited heavily by Louisville, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, Syracuse, and Mississippi State, among others. But, after his official Memphis visit, he didn't look further.
"Once I came to the Temple game on my visit and I saw the arena and how loud it was and the fans making noise and the excitement, it drew me in," Rice says. "I was like, 'Man, I want to play here.'"
Rice's parents attend games whenever they can, but Memphis can never be exactly like home, where Marie and her husband Douglas Avery, an ordained minister and Rice's stepfather, still live. They are raising Rice's little brother, Yoland, and ministering to others.
The family's closeness can partially be explained by the death of Rice's natural father in 1985, when Rice was 2 years old. "We are very family-oriented," Marie says. "We have a lot of table discussions and sit-down dinners."
And always in the background at home is Marie's portrait, providing a reminder of Anthony and how she raised her son to put others first.
It's a pretty picture.