I have rarely been able to spend time with any player on Purdue's basketball team (other than a pickup game with Brian Cardinal when I was a freshman), but this summer I got to enjoy an evening in the company of Ryne Smith. Ryno is a personal friend of Jordan, Keith, and John here at Hammer & Rails. With Keith being a Bulls fan and the Pacers hosting the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, I offered to grab him some tickets from the Conseco Fieldhouse box office for game 3 of their series. He had me get tickets for him, Ryne, and Ryne's girlfriend Lauren (which, of course they repaid me for in full before anyone picks up a phone to call compliance). We all sat together for the game and had an enjoyable evening as the Pacers blew another lead.
Upon meeting Ryne he is exactly what you would expect. He's an engaging young man that loves basketball and excited about the coming season. I would expect no less from him, especially since the 2010-11 season was a breakout year for him. During his first two years on campus we heard that he could absolutely fill it up from long range better than almost anyone on the roster. He didn't have many opportunities to show it in games though, until last year when he blew up more than medicare part d.
His freshman year he averaged only 1.1 points in 5.3 minutes per game. For much of the Big Ten season he was an afterthought deep on the bench with several DNP's or trillions. His sophomore year was much better. He scored a career high 16 against St. Joseph's in the Paradise Jam, but he had only eight points total in Big Ten play and none after the January 9th loss at Wisconsin.
Just as some fans were ready to give up on him Ryno blew up last year. In several games he took advantage of all the attention Smooge and JJ were getting to bury triple after triple. While John Hart was the first third option, Ryno picked up the slack once Hart went down with an injury. He went on an absolute spree to start big Ten play, scoring 17,13, 20, and 18 in the first four games of the conference season. He hit 18 of 27 three-point attempts during this stretch, and suddenly teams had to worry about him too.
Ryne cooled off after that, but still had 15 in a home win over Minnesota and tied his career high with 20 against VCU in the final game of the season. Now that he is a senior, Ryne will be called upon to be the long-range bomber and defensive specialist he has become in the last few years. I can see him taking another leap forward and becoming a possible double-digit scorer this season after he averaged just over six points per game last year. He has the ability to stretch defenses with his long range shooting, and it seemed like he gained a lot of confidence from that hot stretch he had to start Big Ten play.
We need Ryne to increase his scoring some if we're going to replace the scoring we lost with JJ and Smooge. I'd like to see him go from six to 10 per game (not impossible) while maintaining his defensive intensity. The slashing ability of Kelsey Barlow and Lewis Jackson can also help in this, as they can find him for kick-out, catch-and-shoot threes.