David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
Frank Ryder, a 6-foot-10 senior, returns to Fairview this season. Ryder, who last played for the Knights as a freshman, attended IMG Academy in Florida before returning to Fairview and has signed to play college ball at the University of San Diego.

BOULDER — Fairview’s best basketball player has finally returned.

Welcome home, Frank Ryder.

After spending most of the past several years sharpening his game at a prep school in Florida and signing to play for the University of San Diego next season, the 6-foot-10 Ryder will suit up for the Fairview Knights in 2015-16 to finish out his prep career where it began.

For both Ryder and the Knights, his return is a game changer.

“It’s great because I grew up watching Fairview when it was Shane O’Neil and all those guys,” Ryder said. “It’s great to represent Fairview and the team and be with my old friends from freshman year. I’m looking forward to playing with these guys and we should be a tough team to beat.”

An aspiring hockey player growing up in Boulder, Ryder began playing basketball after eighth grade. He was on the freshman team at Fairview.

Looking to explore his emerging talent, Ryder attended a summer basketball camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The private boarding school designed to help young athletes reach their full potential offered Ryder a chance to enroll for his sophomore year and he did.

Ryder developed as a sophomore and eventually found himself playing on the varsity team with six other Division-I recruits as teammates. As a junior, however, he contracted a virus that caused him to lose 30 pounds and moved home to be with his family. He enrolled at Fairview and had to sit out last season in compliance with the transfer rules but played the summer with the Colorado Titans.

Now Ryder gets to spend his final year of high school with his family and his hometown friends. He also gets to help the Fairview Knights rebound from a 5-15 season in 2014-15.

“I wanted to be with my family and spend time with them since I left at such an early age and I’m leaving again for college after this year,” Ryder said. “We had a great summer in the gym. We’re working really hard and we’re becoming much closer. If we keep doing those things, it should be a really fun season.”

Coming from Florida, where there are 94 Division-I signees in last year’s senior class, Ryder figures to be among the top high school players in Colorado. Athletic for a big man, Ryder said he likes to run the floor and takes pride in his footwork with his back to the basket, modeling his game after New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

Ryder’s size and skill will undoubtedly be a feature of the Knights’ play this season. But in the eyes of first-year head coach Patrick Burke, Ryder has brought just as much to the team with his approach to preparation and the knowledge he gained from the top-tier staff at IMG Academy.

“Any time you get a Division-I prospect to come home and get to start working with him, it elevates everybody’s game,” Burke said. “He has a tremendous work ethic and that’s been the biggest thing, him being the example and letting guys know how much time you have to work at getting better has been great for our whole team.”

Ryder and the Knights will open the season on Dec. 2 at Chaparral.

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