Every year, a recruits name seems to pop up and appear out of thin air. Lately those names have been European and taken me quite some time to learn how to pronounce. The most recent one, however, is Ryan Spangler. Spangler, a 2011 forward prospect from the state of Oklahoma, is a very well known prep player in the Sooner state. As a dual sport star, Ryan recently made a decision that surprised many; to play basketball in college. From everything we have gathered, Ryan is currently Gonzaga's top priority to come in and add depth at the forward spot in the 2011 class.
As a basketball prospect, Ryan is still quite unknown so we have hooked up with Scott Wright of The Oklahoman to help fill us in on things we may not know about Ryan. Scott is a sports reporter for The Oklahoman and his main focus is on prep sports. Scott provided us with some great insight that we hope you enjoy!
The Slipper Still Fits: Ryan's stats as a junior for Bridge Creek really jump off the page. As a scorer, where does Ryan do a majority of his work and can you just describe the type of offensive skill set he has and what do you see as his biggest weakness?
Scott Wright: Putting up the monstrous numbers he did at Bridge Creek, Ryan did much of his work inside, because the team was so small around him. He had to be the post presence, so he spent a lot of time in the paint. But he showed some ability to step outside and hit jumpers as well. His ball-handling could improve. He's not a liability by any means, but he'll need to get better there before moving to the next level. And I think he's certainly capable of adding the skills he needs. He's a truly gifted athlete.
TSSF: It sounds like his size projects best at the next level as a small forward but his ability around the hoop and his ability to rebound seems to suggest he's more of a hybrid four. Where do you see him fitting in college and what kind of offensive system best suits his skill set?
SW: He's in the 6-7 or 6-8 range, so he'll probably need to be able to play the three and the four in college. He spent the summer playing with Oklahoma's top AAU team, Athletes First, and he got the chance to show some of his perimeter skills with that team. Based on who I spoke with, he has the tools to play the three offensively, and showed that on the summer circuit (unfortunately they play virtually all of their games out of state, so I didn't get to see him in person). But being so long, he'll need to learn to break down and defend man-to-man on a 6-3 wing, and that will be different for him. Because he's so long -- I'd guess he has a wingspan over 7 feet -- he can be an undersized four and still play bigger than 6-7.
continue reading after the jump for more on Ryan....
TSSF: Following up on that question, Ryan's stats seem to suggest that he is often times the biggest player on the floor and is sort of a "big fish in a small pond" and that the level of competition he plays against isn't up to the task. How true is this statement and how does he project as a small forward at the next level where he'll have to rely more on his jump shot versus merely scoring off second chances?
SW: With his high school team, there's definitely some of that big-fish, small-pond aspect, but in summer ball, he played some of the best competition in the country, and that's where he made a name for himself. Seeing him in summer ball is where teams like TCU and the Zags got interested. He saw his offer count jump from four to 11 in July alone. His 3-point shot will take some work (he was 6-of-27 in high school last season), but he has the ability to shoot the jumper.
TSSF: When Gonzaga rose to prominence in the late 90s and ealry 2000s, they did it on the backs of players that plain outworked the competition. Looking at Ryan, he seems to fit that mold. Is his toughness and grit on the court his best attribute?
SW: Absolutely. He's a small-town kid who grew up working for everything he got. He's very humble. He isn't looking to have the spotlight on him all the time. He averaged 26.4 points and 18.2 rebounds as a junior, and a lot of that was because he outworked everyone else on the floor. A lot of it was because he was bigger and more talented, too. But his hard work can't be ignored. When I think of the guys that brought Gonzaga into the mainstream, Ryan falls right in line with that type of player.
TSSF: Switching gears for a moment to his recruitment. As a 6'8'' forward with his work ethic and skill set, you would think he would be drawing serious interest from in-state programs like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State but they don't seem to be serious players. What do you attribute this to and do you expect Ryan's recruitment to take off?
SW: Part of the problem around here is that football is and always will be No. 1, and after Ryan threw for 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior, a lot of people just assumed he would be a football player. Multiple Big 12 schools were looking at him as a quarterback, and I think the state basketball programs have held off for that reason. By the time mid-winter gets here and it becomes clear he isn't interested in playing football, Jeff Capel and Travis Ford will be jumping in line to grab Ryan. And I think a lot more coaches will be right there with them.
TSSF: From the outside looking in, it is clear Ryan is a very driven and focused individual. Can you describe him for us as a kid and what do you think will really matter to him when he comes to choose a college?
SW: Ryan is a very quiet, respectful kid -- so quiet at times it's hard to get to know him from an outsider's perspective. So I don't think I could accurately say what will matter to him most in making his college decision. I know his family and his coach, Jason Sanders, will be helping him along the way, and he values their opinions greatly. Like I said before, he's a typical small-town Oklahoma kid who won't be outworked and who understands the meaning of the phrase "no 'I' in team."