The Star Bungled Spangler


The story goes something like this: One of Gonzaga’s present and future bigs, Ryan Spangler, an Oklahoma State and Gatorade Player of the Year, who averaged 29.8 points and 17.4 rebounds his senior year at Bridge Creek High School, leaves the basketball program after only one year…because he is supposedly homesick. Did Ryan Spangler really leave because he was homesick? Or rather, did the staff bungle this situation, and the homesick part is only window dressing for why he really left. Should some of the blame be put on Ryan, or is Gonzaga’s coaching staff solely to blame?

Perhaps Ryan left because he felt like he was not being used properly, and that this misuse would continue. Could he have been worried that if he stayed he might end up like a Marquise Carter, who ended his career with a whimper after coming on so strong at the end of his junior season winning WCC Newcomer of the Year, only to find himself polishing the pine?

In Oklahoma Spangler was used to being the man. An All State QB and a POY in basketball, he came to Gonzaga thinking he would light it up. While he was idling on the bench, his best buddy, Kevin Pangos, was a starting freshman, running the show and becoming a star, yet all he was doing was sitting, watching, and contemplating his decision to even come here. Meanwhile, the coaching staff was looking to bring in more bigs. He wanted to play, and star, with his buddies and the class of recruits he came in with. Surely, in his mind, he was good enough. Then the staff may have asked him to red shirt, which I believe he should have done his freshman season, and now he suddenly becomes homesick. That’s odd.

From all outward appearances, other than playing time, he seemed to be having a blast at Gonzaga. He visited the campus several times before committing. He met with the staff many times and had a lot of time to make his decision to come here. So, he knew what he was getting into. He has a great relationship with his teammates. They went bowling, to the mall, and the movies, there was even a recent trip to Gary Bell’s hometown. He admittedly loved it here. If he thought he had a chance to do good things on the court why on earth would he consider leaving?

Part of it was probably pride, impatience, and youth. He could not bear to watch my best friend Pangos trending on Twitter worldwide, becoming an All American and super star, while he sat on the bench and then, surprisingly be asked to red shirt. This must have been too much. So, he conveniently becomes homesick.

Let’s talk about that. To be sure, it’s hard leaving your hometown where you walk on water, and are adored by fans. But we all grow up and finding your path is usually part of it. You move. It’s part of life. Unlike the old days, there are many ways to keep in contact with loved ones. Face book, Twitter, email, planes, trains & automobiles too. So it should not have come to this. It comes down to leaving because of pride, expectations, lack of playing time, and immaturity. All of which can be, and should be things coaches can overcome.

So, this one is on the coaching staff. They are supposed to be mature, trained coaches, and adults, responsible for development. You are supposed to have the skills to navigate and keep your kids content with their situation and have relationships with players where trust is developed. Coaches are often thought of as father figures, and mentors. Communication is key. It is squarely on their shoulders to help shape a player into being able to accept his role. I believe coach Few did not have Spangler’s trust. What kind of signal does it send when you are asked to red shirt for the second year in a row, {remember, the staff asked him to red shirt his first year too} all the while the staff is actively trying to recruit more bigs. I believe Ryan felt like the writing was on the wall. He was going nowhere, in a hurry.

IMO, this was nothing more than a whiff in communication, trust and development by the staff. So, it is Few’s fault. Remember, the buck stops at the top.

Is Ryan homesick? Sure, everyone gets homesick…but I am not buying the excuse that he had to transfer because of it and waste one year of his life. I do wish Ryan well and hopefully the staff learns something beneficial from this. It’s sad that Zag fans will never get to see "Spangs" evolve into the versatile 4/5 that he could have become, and witness this rebounding machine reach his full potential.

This post does not reflect the views of the blog authors or SB Nation.

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