In an exit interview of sorts, UE senior Colt Ryan sat down this week to discuss his legacy and favorite memories from four years in an Aces uniform.
The end result was this story in Thursday’s Courier & Press: UE’s Ryan never short on motivation
So much more could have been included in print. Here it is.
Ryan’s future as a pro
The 6-foot-5 forward plans to have one.
“I’d like to continue playing somewhere, whether it’s here in the states or overseas,” he said. “I haven’t thought too much about it. I’m going to let it play out, see how the end of the season goes and then worry about it.”
Ryan said he hasn’t been formally evaluated or spoken to scouts, though there will be a record 25-plus at Arch Madness this week. Once his senior season ends, the accounting major Ryan will set his post-graduate career in motion by contacting and hiring an agent.
“It almost feels like a recruiting process again, kind of like when you pick your college,” he said. “You want to get someone who’s really looking to help you do the best you can do — somebody has a lot of contacts in the market you want to go into. I’ll have to evaluate that when the time comes.”
And after a playing career, how does “coach Ryan” sound? His senior day speech proved the Batesville, Ind., native can inspire.
“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “I think I would want to do that, but definitely way down the road. It would be such a different way to look at the game. You’re not really in control of the game. When you’re playing, you can have a direct impact. I know coaches can too, but you can’t score baskets while coaching — stuff like that.”
Also from that speech, when he told coach Marty Simmons, “I say this from the bottom of my heart: There’s nobody that would have coached my better than you.”
“He’s just done a terrific job of helping me see the game together offensively and even defensively at times, too,” Ryan said. “He was such a great scorer himself. He helped me with the little things. I’m not blessed with the most athleticism or speed, and neither was he, so he’s been able to kind of relate to me and teach me things and ways to score the basketball with the little things that matter — reading the defender, reading screens and keeping the floor spaced.”
Simmons, the nation’s sixth-leading scorer during his own senior season at UE, didn’t compare himself so evenly to Ryan.
“He’s a much better player than me all the way around, and he is a much better athlete than me all the way around,” the coach said. “A lot has been said, and enough cannot be said of just his work ethic and his ability to want to be better each and every season.”
Leaving it better than he found it
That’s what Ryan wanted to do with UE’s basketball program.
The Aces’ 18 wins during the regular season were the most by a UE team with Ryan on it and set a high mark for Simmons-coached Aces squads. Ryan also saw the move into the Ford Center and Fifth Third Practice Facility during his time.
“We’ve increased the value of the program, or at least I’d like to think so,” he said. “Coach Simmons has done a great job, and he’s a huge part of doing that too because none of this would have happened without him. We’ll keep getting better recruits and keep being able to compete at such a high level.
“A lot of people don’t understand that, at such a small school, it’s kind of an unfair advantage. You don’t get the same kind of budget that other teams would get. Kids coming out of high school, when they’re looking at places to go, they want to see the nice, fancy things and, ‘What can I get?’ rather than, ‘What can I give to the program?’ With the new Ford Center and our practice facility, that’s going to help a lot.”
Ryan sees a bright future in UE’s newest set of signed recruits.
Simmons has already inked son Blake Simmons, out of Castle High School, Fishers High School’s Jaylon Brown and Cleveland guard Duane Gibson to letters of intent.
“I’ve seen Blake play quite a bit and played with him a little bit,” Ryan said. “The only other one (I know) is Jaylon (Brown). I’ve heard so much about him and how athletic he is and talented. But Blake is going to fit great in this program. He’s a structured, program-first guy who’s going to do what needs to be done to get the win. He can shoot the ball extremely well, and he’s a smart basketball player, so I think he’ll do really well here.”
Ryan’s favorite on-court memories (so far): “There’s a couple games that stick out to me. My freshman year, the UNI game at home — it was senior night — and we only had one senior, and it was Trevor Gregory. He actually got to start that game. They were ranked like 22nd at the time, and we were struggling bad. I think we were on a 14-game losing streak or something like that, and we ended up beating them. It just felt so good to be able to send Trevor out with a win and end that losing streak. Then sophomore year, it was another senior night game against Illinois State — the last game in Roberts. It was a really emotional day. Jerry Sloan was back in the house, Larry Humes — all the greats — to see the place go. Then also, Pieter van Tongeren, Clint Hopf and Kavon Lacey were three seniors that care a lot, especially Pete. You could tell he came in every day and gave his all for the program, and I think I had 32 in that game. I felt so good not that I scored 32, but that I gave all my energy and effort to get a win for them.”
Ryan on his legacy: “I’d like for people to remember me as a hard worker — somebody who gave it their all, and not just on the basketball floor — in the community as well.”
The whole community part — that comes from Ryan’s upbringing.
His family — mainly parents Pam and Phil — traveled to every game this year. Younger sister Fawn plays volleyball at University of Southern Indiana, as did older sister Emily, a USI graduate. Colt’s also talked about the influence of his older brother, Gavin.
The Ryans always took their report cards seriously. Colt even won the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.
“I’ve always been a pretty good student, even going throughout high school and stuff,” he said. “I kept straight As throughout all of high school. My parents and my family instilled in me at an early age that grades were really important. Growing up, I used to compete with my friends in grades, too. If they got a better grade than me, I didn’t like it. I liked that I could prove to them I could get a better grade also. Really, my freshman year here it slipped a little, but sophomore year, junior and this year, I’ve picked it up.”
He’s shifted things into another gear on the court as well.
“There was a real sense of urgency from me, especially after the Creighton game,” he said. “I think after that, that’s when we played Illinois State and we’ve gone from there. I saw it winding down, and I really felt like I wasn’t playing to my capabilities. I wanted to leave better than the way it was going at the time. We’ve been able to turn things around a little bit since then, and I think we’re definitely not done. We’ve got a lot left to accomplish.”