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Ryan Richards: the next step in a career odyssey

June 26th, 2010 · No Comments

The British with Jamaican background Ryan Richards was the youngest of all the Europeans drafted in 2010. After an odyssey through different teams and countries, the Kent raised has now made his first step into the direction of his dream: playing in the NBA. The next step in his trip should now be to earn a roster spot with the San Antonio Spurs. But let’s take a look back and see where Richards comes from.

Jamaica, England, Gran Canaria (Spain), Madrid (Spain), Mons (Belgium), Las Palmas (Spain), Virtus Bologna (Italy), BBC Monthey (Switzerland), Gran Canaria (Spain), San Antonio (USA). What sounds like a veteran career is the way that Ryan Richards has already behind him at his young age. The 19 year old Brit had quickly been recognized as a big-time talent and a multitude of agents and teams were chasing him throughout Europe. Moving away from home was probably the right decision as Basketball is not really big in Great-Britain but the career choices were not always the best for him in his development.

The first time I could see him play in real was during the Nike International Junior Tournament 2008 in Madrid. But before that, he was already called up to the Nike Hoop Summit in 2007 where Draftexpress had the first reports on him.

Throughout the week in practice, Richards displayed a fantastic set of all-around skills for a 15 year old. On the perimeter, he handles the ball comfortably, and can shoot the jumper all the way out to 17 feet. On the low block, Richards has footwork advanced far beyond his years. Though the lefty finishes well with his strong hand on the low block, he rarely makes on moves to the right side of the basket.

Physically, Richards already has the size for a low post player in the NBA and will likely shoot up at least a few more inches in the 4 years before he becomes eligible for the draft. The big man from London also has an excellent frame for a 15 year-old, and will likely develop more strength and athleticism in the coming years.

Though his only playing time was an afterthought to the game, Richards logged 3 minutes, becoming the youngest player ever to participate in the annual game. After making his way onto the floor, he missed a spot-up jumper and followed it up with a missed jump hook from the left block on the ensuing possession.

And then came one of the phrases that shows how big Richards’ potential was seen back then.

If he continues his current rate of development, Ryan Richards has the makings of a potential lottery pick in the distant future.

Everything was ready to develop into really something special. Ryan Richards stayed with Gran Canaria and got an invitation by Real Madrid to compete with Real during the Nike International Junior Tournament during spring 2008. He impressed me with the same qualities that Draftexpress saw in him a year before but there were some signs that gave me doubts about his potential.

Richards displayed everything you need to become a good one one day. On the other side, I did not like at all his behavior on the court. But coming to his game, he showed some very fine moves with his back to basket and was extremely present in offensive rebounding. He has range until the three point line from where he can hit shots without any problem. Being a nice athlete, that helps him a lot but he should be even more present in blocking shots. What bothered me also was the fact that Richards took nearly every time a shot on his own when he got the ball and never went for the pass. This may be considered as a pretty selfish attitude especially when your team is trailing by 30 points like it was the case against FMP Zeleznik.

After this, Richards was not quite sure about how his future is going to be. Real Madrid wanted to sign him but other teams were also on the line. So, after a summer without playing for the British National Team, Richards finally turned down the five-year deal offer of Real because of prohibitive NBA buy-outs. But on the other hand, Richards needed a team where he could develop and earn playing time. He spoke with Chris Finch, who was the coach of the British National Team and additionally the coach of the Belgian team of Mons. Out of this, Mons offered him a two-year deal to complete his scholar duties in the American School in the region and develop his game in the Basketball Academy of the pro team and get some minutes if possible with the professionals.

During his year in Belgium, Richards scored only 5 baskets overall with Mons on the professional level and he was yet again set to leave and see something different. The way brought him back to Gran Canaria with the expectations of integrating the local ACB team. However, he was put in the reserve team after an unsuccessful test for a loan to Virtus Bologna. But the situation has not yet ended and the travelling continued. Gran Canaria sent him on loan to BBC Monthey in Switzerland where Richards for the first time got some regular playing time in a first division in Europe after 3 years of moving around. Even if the level was not the highest in the world, he still was a talented 18 year old seven-footer with a shot and great athletic abilities.

After a few games with Monthey, that’s when he decided to put his name into the 2010 Draft as an early entrant. The trip continued to the United States for a whole lot of workouts which can be followed in the excellent Pre-Draft Timeline of hoopsfix.com. The reactions were excellent in the beginning as he came a bit out of nowhere for most of the NBA observers. And the buzz created around him stayed alive over the weeks before the draft even if Richards did not participate to the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso.

Teams that have no immediate need could of course look a bit closer to a young seven footer and help him to develop over a few years. So it was no real surprise to see San Antonio grab the Brit in the second round. As Richards has already declared that he wants to play in the NBA or even go through the D-League, the chances to see him play for the Austin Toros next season are real. If that will be the case, Richards will meet in one of the first games for the Toros their rivals of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers; coached by Chris Finch.

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