Ryan Fletcher Comes Home to Stay

A player that chose to stay home to play his college basketball has now decided to return home after a seven year professional career overseas. Bearcat Insider recently spoke with Ryan Fletcher.

A career in football as a quarterback was unexpectedly killed after a poor senior season at Middletown High School, but a professional basketball career was born when 6' 8.5" Ryan Fletcher decided to become one of Bob Huggins' Bearcats.  Now the 29-year-old has returned to the Cincinnati area to settle down and raise his family.


Ryan talked about his decision to retire from professional basketball.  "I did it for seven years, and when I came home in May, I really didn't know if that was what I wanted to do anymore.  I'll be turning 30 in April, and I knew my career would be winding down.  Also, I had my first child in February.  I only wanted to go back to a couple of places, namely Italy or Spain, and only if I got the right amount of money.  I did get decent offers to play in both those countries, but my heart just wasn't in it."


Fletcher's professional basketball career could double as a season on "The Amazing Race" television show.  Ryan rattled off the names of all the places he has played.  "I played in Spain, France three times, Germany, Belgium, Dubai and the Phillipines three different times."  He said he was well paid at every stop.


With Fletch either emotionally or physically at every stop along the way was his wife Sarah, who he originally met at Middletown High School.  Both graduated from the University of Cincinnati and currently reside with their daughter Avery in Liberty Township.    


Having a professional basketball career was the furthest thought from Ryan's mind when he entered his senior year as a Middletown Middie.  Ryan talked about that senior season.  "I was always a football player.  Growing up in Franklin, football was the main sport.  Basketball was something you did to stay in shape in the winter.  Going into my senior year, there were high expectations.  I had a really good summer.  I went to an Ohio State football camp and got the MVP of the camp.  Everything was looking really positive, and to this day, I can't figure out what went wrong.  We went 2-8, and I got benched as the quarterback about the sixth game of the year.  I was moved to receiver and linebacker.  It just didn't work out."  Ryan received no football scholarship offers.


As big a disappointment as football was, basketball season was just the opposite.  "Before I knew it, I started putting up really good numbers in basketball season, and we were winning.  All the failure I had in football changed into success with basketball.  I went from wanting to play college football to wanting to play college basketball.  Before I knew it, I was being recruited by everybody."  Ryan said he turned down scholarship offers from Xavier, Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin among many others.


As a Bearcat, Ryan was part of five great Cincinnati seasons since he medically redshirted as a sophomore.   The Bearcats posted a combined 137-29 record during that time.  Ryan spoke about his career.  "I didn't see much playing time as a freshman, but we went to the Elite Eight.  Then I hurt my hand and redshirted, but my third year I average about twenty minutes a game.  There were three big men-Kenyon, Bobby (Brannen) and me.  I was the first big man off the bench.  I started as a junior and split time with Jermaine Tate as a senior."  All five Bearcat teams won Conference USA championships.


There are a lot of fond memories for Ryan with one notable exception.  "We had that one great year that ended with great disappointment when Kenyon broke his leg."  The Bearcats were 28-2 when Martin broke his leg in a first round C-USA tournament loss to St. Louis.  Cincinnati managed to beat UNC-Wilmington in the NCAA tournament before losing to Tulsa in the second round.


Despite all the championships, Fletch will always be remembered for one shining moment in Cincinnati basketball history.  Ryan, using his quarterback skills, threw a length of the court pass to Kenyon Martin, who passed to Mel Levett for the game winning dunk in the final second of the game to beat #1 rated Duke University.  Ryan said Bearcat fans still ask him about the play he triggered in the Great Alaska Shootout.  "As the years go on, I thought that fewer and fewer people would ask me about it, but I get asked three or four times on the golf course.  ‘Hey, aren't you the one that threw the pass to Kenyon?'  They usually want the play-by-play and the whole story of the Alaska Shootout.  There really hasn't been a falling off of people who remember that and want to talk about it."


Life can draw people in many different directions, but Ryan still talks with many of the old Bearcats.  "I see Keith Gregor and Bob Brannen.  I still talk with Jackson Julson and have played against Jermaine Tate a few times overseas.  I talk to Terrence Davis and run into Rub (Ruben Patterson).  He still lives around here.  Corrie Blount actually lives across the street."  Can you imagine a driveway pick-up game with Blount and Fletcher?


Ryan was recruited by John Loyer but was actually coached by Mick Cronin and spoke about the present UC head coach.  "I was there for three years with Mick.  He was my big man coach my junior year.  Mick is the definition of the American dream.  He's worked his way up the ladder.  He was the video coordinator when I first knew him.  Then he became an assistant coach.  He eventually became the head coach at Murray State and now has earned the job of coaching the school he grew up rooting for.  I know that he will get the program back to where it was.  He's a hard worker and knows the game of basketball."


Fletch also knows the tough situation Coach Cronin inherited.  "If there's a tougher job out there, I don't know about it.  I don't think it could have been any tougher for him.  The circumstances of who he's replacing, the legacy of the program, the talent pool left behind and entering the BIG EAST make this as tough a job as anyone could have been handed."


With professional basketball in his rearview mirror, Ryan is pursuing a second career as a financial advisor.  He is still working on getting all the paperwork finalized but is looking forward to helping Bearcat fans and others in handling their finances.  Bearcat Insider will give further details on contacting Ryan when they become available some time in January.     


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