By Ryan Glasspiegel - Follow Sports Rapport on Twitter
Over the last two weeks, Wisconsin basketball head coach Bo Ryan took a lot of whacks in the national media when redshirt freshman Jared Uthoff sought to transfer and was granted his release but blocked from going to 26 programs, including the entire Big Ten and ACC. If you want a detailed explanation of how the story spiraled out of control and Uthoff gained the right to transfer anywhere outside of the Big Ten, read Tom Oates’ balanced piece on the subject and Adam Mertz’s Twitter aggregation from the Wisconsin State Journal.
Ultimately, while Bo Ryan certainly did not help himself in an interview with ESPN’s Mike and Mike, he was undoubtedly the victim of the slow sports news cycle in the period before the NFL Draft and NBA Playoffs as well as growing public distaste for the restrictions that the NCAA place on student athletes who are treated as indentured servants.
Bo Ryan became a very convenient symbol about everything that is wrong with collegiate athletics: players provide their services for free and have their movements restricted as NCAA stakeholders–TV executives, advertisers, conference commissioners, athletic directors, coaches, etc.–make millions off their labor and roam freely from job to job.
In this narrative, scholarship education is usually neglected from the conversation or written off as unfairly low compensation. Most of the time, this is a pretty fair assertion as universities, coaches, and even the athletes themselves don’t necessarily optimize its value.
Many successful coaches in elite basketball and football programs are remorseless sociopaths who have no genuine interest in the growth and development of their players into men–they care only about wins and losses, the gateway to personal power, prestige, and wealth. (See Petrino, Bobby.) Systems with these coaches aren’t entirely a one-way street as the best players market themselves to scouts at the next level but it’s akin to a four-lane superhighway on one side while the other is a back-country dirt road.
While I didn’t necessarily agree with Bo Ryan’s decision to restrict Uthoff’s movement, it was unfortunate to see him lumped in as a symbol of everything that is wrong with college athletics. From what I’ve observed as a Wisconsin graduate and ardent Badgers fan, Bo Ryan goes above and beyond the norm in seeking to educate his players and prepare them to be men.
Over the past week, I sought to figure out whether or not my perceptions were true and tried to track down as many of Ryan’s former Badger players as I could. It was fascinating to see where in the world some of them are playing basketball for a living, ranging from overseas teams in Ukraine and Japan all the way to the NBA. What I was equally interested in, though, are those who are working conventional jobs. Was the education that they received attending Wisconsin and playing for Bo Ryan fair value for their services?
Here’s what I was able to track down, with special thanks to Patrick Herb for his help.
Still Playing Basketball
Badgers in the NBA
Devin Harris – Utah Jazz
Jon Leuer – Milwaukee Bucks
Greg Stiemsma – Boston Celtics
Badgers in the NBA D-League
Brian Butch – Bakersfield Jam
Alando Tucker – Texas Legends
Badgers Playing Professionally Overseas
Jason Chappell – Austria – Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg
Trevon Hughes – Lithuania – Pieno Zvaigzdes
Tim Jarmusz – Germany – Gotha Rockets
Joe Krabbenhoft – Spain – Breogan
Marcus Landry – China – Shanghai Sharks
Zach Morley – Ukraine – Budivelnyk Kyiv
Keaton Nankivil – Germany – Ratiopharm Ulm
Ray Nixon – Japan – Shiga L-Stars
Kirk Penney – Spain – Fuenlabrada
Kammron Taylor – Ukraine – DniproAzot
Mike Wilkinson- Russia – Unics
Via Badger of Honor, here’s a great video of a Keaton Nankivil buzzer beater in Germany:
Badgers in the working world
Brett Valentyn is a Transaction Real Estate Analyst at Ernst and Young in Chicago. Kevin Gullikson is a project manager at Epic in Verona, WI. Epic makes software for mid-size and large medical groups, hospitals and integrated healthcare organizations – working with customers that include community hospitals, academic facilities, children’s organizations, safety net providers and multi-hospital systems. Sharif Chambliss is a video coordinator for Wisconsin men’s basketball. Tanner Bronson is a graduate assistant for Rick Majerus at St. Louis University. Charlie Wills is a real estate agent at First Weber in Madison.
Jason Bohannon is a division leader at Primerica in Cedar Rapids, IA. “Coach Ryan has done a tremendous job of getting players ready for life after basketball,” Bohannon says via GChat. “He teaches them to work for what you want. Nothing comes easy–no matter what you are doing in life.”
Clayton Hanson spent his first 4.5 years after graduation working as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and has since moved on to become an analyst at Maverick Capital in New York City. ”Ultimately the key elements of success in his program–being a quick learner, managing your time, a strong work ethic, accountability–are the same things required to be successful beyond the basketball court,” Hanson says. “To me Coach Ryan represents everything that is good about college basketball.”
Dave Mader owns and operates an independent State Farm Insurance branch in Neenah, WI. His small business sells car, home, life, health, and disability insurance as well as financial products, loan products, and deposit products. “There’s so many things in my business now that relate back to athletics and competition and playing under [Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan],” he says. “You can ask the people that work for me here. There’s so many basketball parallels in the business world. Certainly, the kids who get that experience under Coach Ryan are very fortunate and I consider myself blessed to be a part of his program and some great teams.”
Ike Ukawuba is a manager of Pegasystems BPM Practice Consulting at Accenture in Chicago. “During my time at Wisconsin, there was definitely emphasis upon folks not only just going to class making their grades so they could be eligible to play but just having a sense of responsibility to be prepared and to be an adult in the real world,” he says. “Bo Ryan always gets back to me–always returns my phone calls–and you’ll hear the same thing from anybody else who contacted him after they played.”
Wquinton Smith is a personal banker at Guaranty Bank in Wales, WI. “Basketball helped me mainly because of the discipline you need especially playing for Coach Ryan,” Smith says. “I feel like I can accomplish anything as long as I put my mind to it. We were always underdogs at Wisconsin and that is how I feel like I am in life. I may not be the smartest or most skilled but at all times I will give the most effort and I know that will help me in the long run.”