BRO got a chance to interview Ryan Walcott prior to practice last Tuesday. Ryan is a 6-0 redshirt freshman point guard from Phoenix, Arizona.
BRO: First off, how are your knees?
Ryan: They're feeling really good. Really good. I've had tendinitis for awhile now, but this week is the best I've felt all year. Rehab has been going great.
BRO: What exactly do you do to rehab tendinitis?
Ryan: I work with the trainer in the training room every day. Lunges, squats, other light weight work, just exercises to get the blood flowing in the knees. I only have pain in one knee now, the other knee feels fine.
BRO: You went to Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix and started for all 4 years, right?
Ryan: Yeah, everything worked out great. Mike Bibby is my cousin, and I was in the 8th grade when he was a senior, so I was able to step right in for him.
BRO: How are the two of you related?
Ryan: Our moms are sisters.
BRO: Has Mike been a big help to you in your career?
Ryan: Definitely. We work out together in the summer every day, lift together, then do drills, go one on one. Plus, with his experience in college and NBA, he's always sharing his knowledge with me, telling me things every day about how I can improve my game. He's really helped me a lot.
BRO: I know that UCLA started recruiting you relatively late. Did you already have another school in mind where you thought you might go before UCLA came calling?
Ryan: St. Louis. I really wanted to go play for Coach Romar. In fact, my mom was telling me I should call him and make the commitment, she didn't know what I was waiting for. And every day I'd pick up the phone and then put it down again. And then UCLA called. I came out for my trip, and I really fell in love with the campus, with Los Angeles, and I really liked the coaches and the guys who would be my teammates. Earl Watson was a big factor. He told me I needed to think long term as well as short term, and how a UCLA degree could make a big difference for the rest of my life.
BRO: Did Earl help you a lot last year, when you were redshirting?
Ryan: Definitely. He was so big and strong, and going up against him in practice every day made me a better player. I got a lot better idea of what college was going to be like, as far as the level of competition. And he was always telling me things in practice to help me become a better player, telling me to keep working hard because the team was going to need me to produce the next year, when Earl, Moose and Jason were all going to graduate.
BRO: Let's talk about UCLA some more. I read in the media guide that you were one of the three students on the team who made the Dean's Honor Roll for the winter quarter last year [the others are Jason Kapono and Josiah Johnson], which means a minimum 3.0 GPA. Was the academic aspect of UCLA a big factor in your decision? Not that I'm insulting St. Louis…
Ryan: Definitely. Academics are very important. Everybody thinks they are going to play at the next level, but that's not necessarily realistic thinking, even if you're an All-American. I know that if I do well here at UCLA, in the classroom, that will give me great advantages for the rest of my life. As soon as my mom heard that UCLA was offering me a scholarship, it was like, "Forget St. Louis, go to UCLA. Call them now." Which I did, I committed right away. The academics were a major reason for me to go here.
BRO: Have you chosen a major already?
Ryan: I just chose History. I realized growing up, I really didn't have a good grasp on what had gone on around the world through time, and now I'm very interested in learning about the rest of the world, about this country too, learning as much as I can so I can make sense of a lot of things that are happening. It's important for people to understand why things are happening, if they want to make changes or solve problems.
BRO: Speaking of solving problems, you've probably noticed that Cedric Bozeman is on the sidelines. Have the coaches talked to you about what they expect from you at this time?
Ryan: Obviously, I'm going to play more, and I'm going to have to step up my play. It's not so much a question of doing something differently. My focus is more on setting up my teammates for good shots, making plays for the other guys, and putting pressure on the ball, so I'm a little different from some of our other point guards. I just need to play my own game, but it's time for all of us to step up. That would be true even if Cedric was here, we didn't like what happened with Pepperdine and we all need to step it up, especially on defense.
BRO: Have there been some things that the coaches have told you they'd like to see you improve at?
Ryan: They want me to be more vocal, do a better job at both ends of communicating with the other guys, making sure they're in the right places on offense and defense. That's the main thing, along with being more physical, especially on defense.
BRO: Okay, there's an obnoxious TV reporter from Fox here sticking a camera in your face like I don't exist. I'll let you get back to practice…
Ryan: Yeah, that's pretty rude.
BRO: Good luck, Ryan.
Ryan: Thanks, Mr. Miller.