Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013, 9:09 pm

Ryan shines for Vikings in solid freshman season

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By Tom Johnston,

As humble as he is, Ben Ryan definitely stood out for the Augustana College men's basketball team this season.

The freshman was one of the most consistent players for the Vikings this season as they racked up an 18-7 overall record, went 8-6 in a tough CCIW race and finished fourth to secure a spot in tonight's CCIW Men's Tournament semifinals.

You can bet Ryan is anxious to get another shot at top-seed and hosting Illinois Wesleyan since his final choice of colleges came down to these two league rivals. The smile tells you all you need to know about his feelings about the third meeting of the season with the Titans.

But that's about all you will get out of the soft-spoken 18-year-old — other than solid play.

"He so epitomizes the way we want to do things," Augie coach Grey Giovanine said of Ryan. "He is fundamentally sound, hard-nosed, tough."

Those attributes helped the 6-foot-5, 208-pound power forward put up solid numbers this season as he averaged 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — both team-leading numbers.

He led the Vikings in scoring eight times this season, with a season-high of 21. He was the team's leading rebounder in 13 of 25 games and was just one off Brandon Kunz's team-high of 14. The talented freshman also recorded five double-doubles, the last of those in this week's regular-season finale with 12 and 11.

Showing his solid and consistent play, he missed seven other double-doubles by either one or two points or rebounds.

"I'm just doing what needs to be done," said Ryan. "Coach has given me a role to guard, get rebounds and finish when I'm in the lane. I just try to do what needs to be done."

And he has done all three of those assignments with remarkable acumen for a young freshman being thrown into the fray. He has shown a remarkable court savvy that you would be lucky to get out of an upperclassmen.

"I just have the mindset of going out there to compete and play my hardest and help my teammates and myself get better," said Ryan.

That he has done in every game and every practice. In fact, Ryan joked that it didn't take long to realize he wasn't in high school anymore.

"The first few days of practice, I got pushed around and had to hold my ground and learn the tricks of the trade to play in this conference," said Ryan, a Washington High School standout.

As it turned out, he not only played in all 25 Augie games but started all of them, as well. He became the first freshman to start all 25 regular-season games since Drew Carstens in the 2000-01 season. That was an auspicious start for Carstens, who became a consensus NCAA Div. III All-American.

Ryan would love to follow that trail, too, admitting he was aware of Carstens' legacy.

"That would be great to get my game to that level the next three years," said Ryan. "That is one of my goals. I have thought about it."

Giovanine thought he had landed a solid prospect in the recruiting process, and Ryan has lived up to every expectation this season. He displayed a varied offensive attack that is solid from the basket out to about 16 feet.

"We thought we had a good one when we got him, but until he was thrown into the fire, you never know," said Giovanine. "We recruited him with great effort and time, thinking he could have an immediate impact. .. You could see he was well-coached and really knew the game."

That is surely something Ryan has done for the Vikings in an impressive freshman season.