Basketball coach Tim Notke once said, “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard,” and it is by these words that Ryan Wright has lived and thrived in the basketball arena.
Ryan’s basketball journey started while he lived in Etobicoke, Ontario at the age of 12. There he played for the Etobicoke Thunder an Ontario Basketball Association club team.
Later he moved to Mississauga and attended Loyola CSS where he began to grow as a player and gain national recognition. Like many other young Canadian boys, he grew up watching Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal dominate the sport and dreamed of being like them.
Nature was on Ryan’s side and he grew to 6’8 in high school. He says he was “always head and shoulders above everyone else in his class, so the natural inclination was to pick up basketball. He later developed a love and passion for the sport and stuck with it.
After high school in 2005, Ryan went on to play for the UCLA Bruins in California. In his freshman year he helped his team win the Pac-10 Tournament and then reach the 2006 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game, losing to the Florida Gators. Despite a successful two year run at UCLA Ryan made the decision to transfer to the University of Oklahoma from 2008 until 2010 and play alongside Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons).
Turning Pro Overseas
After finishing his college career at UCLA in 2008, Ryan continued his basketball journey overseas as a professional. Throughout his pro career, Ryan has won several awards. When he played in Taiwan, he was the Scoring Champion of the league. When he played in Finland, he was in the first team All-League selection. Last season in Bulgaria, he won the Bulgarian cup and his game continues to elevate.
“If I had to label this time in my life, I would say these are my prime years and after I turned 30, I could feel myself going to another level. ” he explains.
While the 33 year old Toronto native has been playing basketball all his life, he believes his basketball IQ is at the highest it has ever been.
At this point in his career, Wright is focused on working even harder and using his growing basketball IQ to reach the highest level possible before his retirement. He says he is committed to perfecting his craft, as he believes this will allow many of his other goals to fall in line.
“I have a limited amount of time left to play this game that I love as a profession. I just want to try to get to the highest level that I can,” – Ryan Wright
As he remains committed to his craft, Ryan says he is surrounded by an extremely strong support system. This includes his mother and father who he describes as major influences in his life. He says his parents are extremely hard workers and they passed on the value of hard work to him.
Outside of his family, Ryan looks up to veteran basketballers Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kevin Garnett for guidance. He says he tries to take as much as he can from these athletes by watching them and seeing how they performed. This, he has done from a young age, and it has helped to develop his skills on the court.
Ryan says Wayne Dawkins was one of the people who helped him to work on his game during his high school years and also played a key role in Ryan’s developmental years. He recalls meeting Dawkins when he was in tenth grade at Loyola High School. Wright says Wayne would often invited him out to open runs to work out and train with other top high school players from the city. He also played in the 2004 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T Dot national high school all star game put on by Wayne’s company P.H.A.S.E 1 Youth Association when he was in 11th grade.
He has kept in touch with Dawkins and P.H.A.S.E 1 ever since and adds:
“one thing that I liked about Wayne was that he was really focused on developing the skills of young players. He was very knowledgeable in the game and he helped a lot of guys get better. Every time I was training with Wayne, I just tried to pick up as much as I could from him and tried to soak in as much knowledge as I could.” – Ryan Wright
The Plan to Give Back
As Wayne paved the way for others, Ryan is hoping to be a guiding light for young players. He says there weren’t a lot of players who went through the process of going professional when he was growing up. Looking back, he would have loved to have more guys that played at the highest level to help guide him. Recognizing this void, Ryan says that is why it’s important for players like him to give back to their communities. With this in mind, he tries to be the best role model possible for all the young players that he meets.
“I’ve seen a lot in my career. I’ve done a lot and made a lot of mistakes. I’ve also made some great decisions. I think I can impart that knowledge on the next generation and hopefully help them in navigating their development” – Ryan Wright
As a result, when he is not on the court -playing or training – he works with basketball camps, training children in his spare time and helping those who do not have the finances to afford formal training. Ryan also runs his own charity – Avant Garde, an art and basketball showcase.
Basically, he takes the idea of an art gallery and blends it with a shoe drive. The shoes collected go to different groups in Canada and other countries.
Ryan says he’s always been fascinated by art galleries, photo and videography. While he’s never ventured into that arena himself, he says he’s always been fascinated watching from the outside looking in. It was this fascination that led to the idea of merging basketball and art. The plans for another showcase is still in the works, despite this years event being put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan has been destined to be a community leader both on and off the basketball court from very early in his life. His charisma is very natural and because of his commitment to hard work he exudes a physical presence that commands attention whenever he enters the room. I am very grateful for the support he has shown me and P.H.A.S.E. 1 Youth Association and I look forward to collaborating with him more in the future to assist youth in reaching their goals. – Wayne Dawkins, P.H.A.S.E. 1
With the world on virtual lockdown due to the disease, he is encouraging athletes to keep themselves engaged and work on their craft while they are stuck at home.
“If you can’t have access to a gym, there are a lot of home workouts you can do to keep your body in shape and your mind sharp. You can still study the game. Go on YouTube and watch clips of your favourite players, watch highlights and clips of games. In that way, you can keep your mind engaged and locked in on learning the game and getting better.” – Ryan Wright
Ryan says the lockdown could also be a blessing in disguise and urges not just players but everyone else to use the time to get better at their passions.
“We’re going to get over this and when the whole quarantine situation ends, it’s all about how you used your time.”
In the meantime, he is urging young athletes to remain committed to their passions. He says “there is no excuse not to work hard.”
“If you’re someone who is talented and you have a good work ethic, you can take your craft so much farther. So just have the mentality to outwork your competition, to do the little things that make you better and do them consistently regardless of the adversity that you may face” – Ryan Wright
Ryan adds that the goal is to become an ELITE athlete. He believes the professionalism that he brings to everything that he does on and off the court make him elite.
He says “I think an Elite 1 is someone who can take lessons that they’ve learnt on the court and apply them to every aspect of their life. These include discipline, work ethic, dedication and teamwork. Somebody who is truly an Elite 1 can take those and apply them to everyday life, to be the best person they can be and I try to do that.”