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Battier's cousin ready to Battle with Duke

For the first time since Shane Battier committed to Duke University in 1996, the Battier family will have an excuse to root against the Blue Devils. Battier's cousin Marcus Battle will take the field at the wide receiver position for the Rice Owls when they battle Duke Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Wallace Wade Stadium.

 Although Battle is not close to his Naismith Award-winning relative, the 5-foot-9 sophomore shares many of his positive characteristics. Battle is one of the rare athletes who has combined on-field success with academic prowess. He graduated with honors from Ocean Springs High in Ocean Springs, Miss., while also being a member of the Mu Alpha Theta math honors club.

 And like nearly every Division I athlete, Battle dominated his high school peers while playing quarterback for the Greyhounds. Battle received All-Coast, All-Bay, All-Regional, and South-State first-team honors his senior year. And before playing in Mississippi's renowned high school all-star game his senior year, Battle was a one-man offensive juggernaut for Ocean Springs, amassing 1,900 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns.

 After his spectacular high school career, Battle chose to attend Rice University largely because of its great academic reputation. "Of the schools that recruited me, I felt Rice was the best [academically]," Battle said. "Academics were a big reason why I chose Rice."

 But like many athletes who coast through high school on tremendous athletic ability, Battle's size disallowed him from dominating games at the quarterback position. For this reason, Rice head coach Ken Hatfield decided to move Battle to the running back position for his freshman year, which he redshirted.

 In the spring of 2002, Hatfield changed his mind and decided that wide receiver would be the best position for Battle. Just as his more famous cousin did for Duke not too long ago, Battle made no complaints while sacrificing individual desires for the good of the team. Battle relentlessly worked at learning his new position despite the limited importance wide receiver has in Rice's triple-option offense. Hatfield said Battle worked tirelessly learning the routes, and continually improves.

 Battle led the Owls in 2002 in receptions (26) and receiving yards (430). He also showed that the work he put into his running game his redshirt season was not in vain when he ran for a 60-yard touchdown on his only carry of the year against Hawaii on Nov. 16, 2002. Although Rice began its 2003 season poorly with a 48-14 loss Aug. 30, Battle continued to be Rice's No. 1 receiving threat with a team-high two catches.

 "He's more comfortable out there," Hatfield understated about the player named top wide receiver at Rice's annual team banquet last January.

 Battle is excited to try to turn around the Owls season against Duke.

 He also felt that the bye week Rice had between the Houston game and the Duke matchup gives the Owls an advantage because of increased preparation time.

 If the Blue Devils are to have success against the Owls this week, they will probably have to increase their preparation time for Battle. "We need this game to have a competitive season," Battle said.


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