Flipping through the current edition of Bounce, you can’t help but get a feeling of pride. The entire issue is dedicated to all the great Puerto Rican players from guys in the League like Carlos Arroyo and Melo to playground legends like James “True” Carter. By the time I was done reading, I was inspired to go back to my roots and find Filipinos out there that are making noise.
A Google search later, I found someone who has a very similar background to me. Coincidently, Ryan Wetherell is also a 5-10, Filipino (well half) who is from Calgary, Canada. But unlike me, he is playing ball alongside Demar DeRozan and Percy Miller Jr. (aka Romeo) at USC.
After a storied career at Calgary’s Sir Winston Churchill – where he averaged 30 points and 8 dimes – Wetherell opted to pass on Canadian schools. Instead, he chose to walk on with the Trojans. In his first two seasons at SC, Ryan has played sparingly and sat out this past season due to an eye injury.
But don’t sleep on Ryan. Coach Tim Floyd constantly praises him and has stated in interviews that he envisions Wetherell having a bigger role in the next two years. My Filipino boy hit me up yesterday as he got out of class.
Bounce: You grew up in the hockey city, Calgary. How did you get into playing hoops?
Ryan Wetherell: Well I started off being a huge hockey fan. I played hockey for six years. That was my main sport. I wanted to play in the NHL – that was my dream. To be honest, after I watched the movie Space Jam in the sixth grade, I just wanted to be like Michael Jordan. So my mom put me in basketball and I just started loving up and kept playing from there.
Bounce: What is the hoops scene like in Calgary?
RW: It’s more of like a hockey place, basketball is not the main sport. I mean there’s not as much talent in Canada. But when I was younger, a lot of the guys I used to play with, like my close friends – I think they were pretty good and could play down in the States. I played against some good players growing up, like Bol (Kong) and Akeem (Pierre) and there’s a whole bunch of other players. It helped me out a lot.
Bounce: So do you think that Canadian players are underrated?
RW: Oh yeah. Well it’s just that there’s less people. It’s underrated I guess. People focus more on basketball here (in the US) and they kind of take it more serious. Where up there, some people do, but it’s just less people and not as many organizations.
Bounce: Where is the place to play?
RW: Right now? The Talisman Centre downtown on Sundays like 2 or 3 o’clock. That’s where all the college guys around Calgary go. A lot of times I’ll go to Mount Royal College or U of C (University of Calgary).
Bounce: What about outdoors?
RW: Uh…no, not really. Nobody really plays outdoors. The weather is horrible in Calgary.
Bounce: Coming out of high school, you had a lot of scholarship offers from Canadian colleges. Why did you opt to try to walk on to a US school?
RW: It was always my dream to play Division I basketball. I have a great family. Whenever I had a goal, my parents always pushed me to do the best I can. My goal was to play Division I and go as far as I can in basketball. The real competition is in the US and I’m trying to get publicity…all that stuff. I just want to get the whole experience.
Bounce: Why USC?
RW: I played in a few tournaments down in the States when I was in high school and one of the assistant coaches at USC came and watched me play and happened to like how I played. And USC is a great school outside of basketball. Like if you get a degree from there, you can do almost anything. I just thought it was a good opportunity for me.
Bounce: How has your experience been so far?
RW: It’s been great. I met a lot of great friends and I think my game’s improved. I learned how to play the game better. In high school, I kind of had the talent and everything but didn’t know how to be a smart player and be a true point guard. It’s one of those things you learn in college playing for great coaches and great players. So it’s been a great experience, I’ve learned a lot.
Bounce: I heard you held your own against Brandon Jennings? Tell us about that match up.
RW: Yeah I played in a tournament in Vegas in high school. My Canadian team went against his team and I think we lost by one point in overtime. But I was doing really well. I stole it from him at half-court a few times in a row. He kind of started to get mad and we went at each other. I think I had 30 that game and he had like 20. And we were guarding each other all game. He’s a great player, so I felt really good to actually do well against him.
Bounce: Have you had any other memorable matchups?
RW: I had to guard OJ Mayo every day in practice, so that was really good for me. He’s a great player and obviously most of the time he would beat me. There were a few times where he would get so frustrated because he couldn’t stop me from scoring. It definitely helped my confidence because he is a legend in the NBA…or about to be.
Bounce: You have two year left at SC. How do you envision ending your career?
RW: I’m just gonna go and play hard, do the best I can do and see what happens. I’ll just play it by ear and put it God’s hands and see where I end up.
Bounce: Obviously there are virtually no Filipino’s in college basketball. How much pride to you have to have accomplished what you’ve accomplished?
RW: I didn’t even know there weren’t many Filipinos in college basketball. That’s pretty cool that I am one of the few. It feels great. All the hard work, all the hours in the gym is paying off in the end. Actually the Philippines, they have contacted my dad. They really want me to be playing professional ball in the Philippines.
Bounce: Is that something you are going to consider?
RW: Yeah, I definitely would consider it. I need to look more into it, but I still have a few more years of college left so I’m not really looking into it yet. I hear it’s great to play overseas there, so it’s definitely something I would look into in the future.
Bounce: For someone who has never seen you play, describe your game.
RW: I am trying to be more of a point guard. I play more of a shooting guard. In Canada, I was the guy who scored on my team. I was the go-to guy. On this team, I’m supposed to distribute the ball. Over the years, I have gotten better at being a point. I’m pretty good at defense.
Bounce: Do you dunk?
RW: Yeah, I can dunk.
Bounce: Where do you like to play pickup in LA?
RW: During the summer I will play at the 24 hour Fitness. There is usually a lot of people there. One of my teammates, he lives in Orange County and we go to this high school sometimes during the week and he calls up a bunch of college players. I’ve seen Brandon Jennings there, Michael Roll (UCLA). But usually I just play at the Galen Center. We just get some of my teammates together and play five-on-five.
Bounce: What about this summer? Do you think you might come up to Vancouver to play in the Dolphin Park Tournament?
RW: Um maybe. I’m gonna be down here most of the summer training. During the summer, I play in the Say No League. It’s a league for all college basketball players. It just depends when I’ll be back in Canada. But I’d like to though.