Frank Ryder believes big games remain in his future, a rewarding payoff for essentially rebuilding his game and his body from scratch following a life-threatening heart ailment.
Ryder plans to experience those big games at the University of Denver.
Earlier this week, Ryder offered DU head coach and former Colorado assistant Rodney Billups a verbal commitment to continue his collegiate career with the Pioneers. Ryder, a graduate of Fairview, spent the past two years at CU as a walk-on after transferring from San Diego in the wake of his health issues.
“At the end of the day I have kind of a cool story with the journey I’ve taken,” Ryder said. “My goal is to play and to contribute a lot on the court. And help teams win on the court. Ultimately I felt like at Denver, I have an opportunity to come in and play and help win. That was a huge factor for me wanting to transfer to kind of continue my story in a different aspect — playing on the court and helping a team win.”
Because Ryder is advancing from his walk-on status to go on scholarship at DU, he will be eligible immediately for the Pioneers in the 2020-21 season. Ryder officially has one more season of eligibility remaining, but he plans to petition for a sixth season of eligibility next year. Ryder played 25 games as a true freshman at San Diego in 2016-17 before he fell ill and missed the 2017-18 season entirely.
Despite the health issues and his status as a walk-on, Ryder was deemed ineligible for the Buffs during the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules, and he appeared in four games this past season. He scored his only two points for his hometown team during a home rout of Prairie View A&M on Dec. 19, 2019.
Unlike most walk-ons, Ryder traveled for every road trip during the 2019-20 season, and head coach Tad Boyle repeatedly stated his confidence in turning to Ryder if necessary. But Ryder returned to Boulder mostly to get healthy and regain his strength, and though he didn’t play much in his lone eligible season at CU, Ryder credited the work he put in under strength coach Steve Englehart for reshaping his health following the health scare.
“In the weight room, Steve really helped me a lot in terms of getting bigger and getting my body back,” said Ryder, who will be 23 by the time he suits up for DU. “I’m the best I’ve ever felt throughout my whole career. The staff giving me the opportunity and taking a chance on me after heart surgery, not a lot of programs would do that. I’m really grateful to Tad for letting me be part of the program and giving me a sense of belonging and family.
“I’ll always consider myself a Buff. Every day, playing against Evan (Battey) and Tyler (Bey), you have to be able to compete to play at practice. I got a lot better athletically and skill-wise, finding ways to score against a guy like Tyler Bey, who’s the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. It forces you to get better.”
The 6-foot-10 Ryder joins a DU program that struggled to a 7-24 mark in 2019-20, Billups’ fourth season in charge at his alma mater after leaving Boyle’s staff. Ryder said he considered DU when he transferred from San Diego, and he chose the Pioneers this time around over Wyoming.
“I really had a good connection with the DU coaching staff, and with coach Billups being on staff with Tad in the past,” Ryder said. “I just really like Denver and the university, and my ability to go in and compete to play.”