Coach Steve Donahue and his staff have hit the ground running, already getting two commitments for the Class of 2020. This week, I spoke with the second such commit, Pennsylvania native Ryan Betley. Betley spoke about why he chose Penn, his overall game and seeing LeBron James play at the Palestra.
Daily Pennsylvanian: When did Penn get involved in your recruitment? Where in the process?
Ryan Betley: Penn got involved in my recruitment last July. Mike Lintulahti expressed interest in me last July and once coach [Steve] Donahue was hired, he told me I was his first recruiting call on the job. They’ve been involved for about a year now — both old and new staff.
DP: Can you take us through the circumstances when you were offered by Penn? What are the emotions in that moment? Which coaches were involved?
RB: I was actually on a visit with the new staff in early May. I was just with my family in the head coach’s office and they said they were going to offer me. It was a great moment for me and my family. At that point, I liked Penn a lot and getting that offer was very exciting.
DP: So you were offered by Lafayette, Holy Cross and Brown as well. Were there any other schools involved and what truly separated Penn from the others?
RB: I got some interest from other Ivy League schools. Also [schools like] Quinnipiac, Lehigh, Bucknell. I had a lot of Ivy League and Patriot League interest. So what separated Penn for me was I grew up around Penn. I attended games at the Palestra as a little kid growing up. It was a special place for me growing up. Also I loved coach Donahue’s vision for the program. Also you can’t really beat the academics at Penn. You go to an Ivy League school like Penn and no education really beats that.
DP: I’ve seen that you saw LeBron James play at the Palestra a dozen years ago. What was that moment like? That has to be quite the experience.
RB: It was an interesting day. So my dad had one ticket and my mom was supposed to watch my brother and I but she was sick, so my dad was like you know what, I’m going to take my brother and I to the game. He didn’t want to be that person, making my mom watch two kids while she’s sick. So we go down and we have one ticket. Both my brother and I were on my dad’s lap and they oversold the Palestra by a thousand people, so it was packed in there. It’s something that I’ll never forget. I only went that day because my dad promised me a Snickers bar. I probably didn’t know what was going on but now I realize how special a day that was.
DP: You’ve talked about coach Donahue’s vision but Penn has struggled recently, leading to Donahue taking over. What made did you believe in him and his staff that they are going to turn this program around? What have they told you about their vision for the program?
RB: Part of the reason I believe in it is because coach Donahue turned around a Cornell program and Cornell has a great history in the Ivy League I don’t think and he took them to the Sweet 16. I think he can take Penn to the Sweet 16. He said he wants to play up and down basketball. I’m a pretty good shooter so I like what he said about getting up and down the floor, running, kicking out passes for open shooters. I think that’s something, that pace of play style, that I can really fit in. Also, the kid who committed before me — A.J. Brodeur — he’s a really good player. He had offers from a bunch of high major programs and coach Donahue getting a player like that really shows his impact already on the team and the future of Penn basketball.
DP: Have you seen A.J. play at all? Do you have a relationship with him? Do you have a relationship with any of the current players?
RB: I have not seen A.J. play. We were both on the Adidas circuit so we were both at the same tournaments in April but I did not get a chance to see him play. At that point, I didn’t know we’d be teammates obviously but I do have a bit of a relationship with Darnell Foreman. They invited me down to work out with him and I went down and worked out with him in the practice gym and we’ve texted with him from time to time. He texted me congratulations. He’s really the only player on the team I’ve met in person I guess.
DP: With Darnell, he’s made his reputation as a hard worker and a tough defender. What was it like working out with him?
RB: That’s definitely the first thing I saw in him. He told me to come down to the gym at three and I showed up half an hour early and he was up there by himself. Even in the little scrimmages we had there that day, he was definitely the one who was going hard, coaching me, help giving me tips while I was playing. He just seems like he would be a great teammate to have, someone who wants to win at all costs. So I look forward to playing with him.
DP: How would you describe your game and how do you see it translating at the next level?
RB: I think I play as smart as I can. I try to make all the right plays. I think I’m known for being a shooter. I made 48 percent of shots on the Adidas circuit. I think I’m more than that. I can get to the rim. I can handle the ball. I can handle the ball against pressure. But I think the thing that stands out about me is I just want to make all the right plays, whether it’s passing, shooting, dribbling. I play hard and I think I want to win at all costs, just like Darnell.
DP: Beyond Donahue and Lintulahti, what other coaches were involved in your recruitment and what were your overall impressions of each of the coaches?
RB: They were all involved actually. Coach [Nat] Graham, he was probably the one who, besides coach Donahue, was most involved with my parents. He would call my dad every now and then. Coach [Ira] Bowman also texted me every now and then. The new assistant coach, coach [Joe Mihalich], he texted me pretty much almost every day. I have a good relationship with each coach and hopefully that will translate at the next level.
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