Something tells me Ryan Sypkens’ senior season won’t be this Aggie’s last rodeo.
Yes, the 3-point specialist’s numbers are down from a national attention-getting 2012-13 campaign…
But those who’ve followed UC Davis men’s basketball this winter know everything about our Aggies is down — thanks to those style-altering injuries to big men J.T. Adenrele and Josh Ritchart.
Limping along at 9-19, UCD has used 13 different starting lineups, has sent a trio of freshmen into key roles (maybe a hiccup before their time) and asked numerous young men to play out of position.
With others paying little attention to UCD’s inside game, Sypkens has been a marked man.
“He probably hasn’t had the year we all expected,” Aggie head coach Jim Les told me at Thursday’s shootaround. “It’s for a lot of reasons: the dynamics of our team; adversity we’ve gone through filtered down to individuals; we’ve asked him to play different roles.”
And defenses focus on stopping Mr. Outside.
Still, with Sypkens’ four treys in Thursday night’s 85-73 win over Cal Poly, the 6-foot-4 guard has 307 in his career and is tied with Bobby Brown for third in Big West Conference history. Sypkens should go blowing past the league’s current record-holder, Adam Jacobson of Pacific (311), sometime in the last three regular-season games.
Recently, Sypkens took some time to recap this campaign, and to look ahead …
“It’s been a real struggle,” Sypkens says. “It’s been frustrating. You know we’ve had a lot of injuries, especially with our post guys. That makes it really hard in Division I basketball … because you really need an inside presence.
“That’s been the frustrating part, trying to push through that adversity.”
In the past 10 games, UCD has played its best defense. It’s won three of those games, but still the little things aggravate and impact …
“When you’re losing, everything is amplified,” the former Franklin High all-Delta Valley Conference standout told me. “Every problem is amplified, anything that goes wrong makes things a lot worse.
“At the same time, we kept pushing. Everyone’s staying resilient, we’re staying together as a team … trying to finish out the season as strong as possible.”
A year ago, Sypkens was terrorizing opposing defenders.
He owns five school 3-point shooting records including most makes in a season (106) and in a career (307), and single-season (230) and career (732) attempts. The fifth benchmark came on Jan. 2, when Sypkens nailed a record 10 long balls in a win over Division-II Simpson.
Last year, he was second in the nation in 3-point percentage (.461) and No. 4 with 3.66 made 3-pointers per game. He averaged almost 15 points a night.
Les called him “the best shooter in the country” last November.
This year he has “only” 87 threes and his percentage entering Thursday was .413 — still very respectable. Sypkens is averaging 11.6 ppg.
“To be completely honest, I was envisioning it going a lot better — collectively and individually,” says the fifth-year senior. “Through all the adversity that we’ve had, it’s made it a lot harder than I expected, to say the least.”
Sypkens became the 19th Aggie to pass the 1,000-point mark earlier this season and his 30 points — all on treys — in that January game against Simpson was his best outing of the season.
But Sypkens, like the rest of his teammates, believes the best of this cloudy campaign is ahead for the Aggies.
“I think we have a really good chance to get to the tournament, we just have to come out, focus defensively, play as a team defensively,” he says. “When we play together as a team, that turns us into a different team.”
And that Big West 3-point shooting record?
“One of the things that I think is cool is I have a chance to catch that Big West record. Individually, that would be pretty amazing for me to do,” the personable young man says with a smile.
So, what’s after graduation for the psychology major?
“I plan to try to play professionally, get in contact with agents, see which ones I like and hopefully sign with one pretty quick,” Ryan explains. “I need to get going on some (pre-NBA tryout season) training. Try to figure out where I’m going to be playing.”
Grad school — he hopes on the East Coast — is also in the plans, but “after playing basketball as long as I can.”
“Ryan’s an elite shooter,” Les says. “He’s a guy who loves the game. Loves to play the game, loves to work at the game. It’s fun as a coach watching him get in the zone shooting the ball. When he gets it going, there aren’t many other people in the country I’d rather have shooting it.”
Les, a former NBA guard, says the league puts a premium on guys like Sypkens who can shoot from adjacent area codes.
“I think he’d fit well somewhere in the NBA,” the coach believes. “Shooters like Ryan Sypkens are a limited professional commodity.”
While I Have You Here: Sypkens says playing in Davis has been rewarding for a number of reasons — but having his family be able to watch him play most of his games has been “really nice.”
Mom Rose, dad Jerry along with brother Jerry and sister Monique get to all the home games and most of the Southern California outings (the elder Jerry’s dad lives in Los Angeles).
Plus, being so close to his home in Elk Grove, the Aggie says he gets a lot of regular help with laundry.
Hey, Ryan! In the NBA they’ll send that stuff out for you. Tell mom she’ll be off the hook when you catch on in the pros.
— Bruce Gallaudet is staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.