1-on-1 With Mavs Rookie Ricky Ledo
Once upon a time, Ricky Ledo was a five-star recruit to Providence. His belief in where he should be ranked as a rookie now, and where he will be ranked as an NBA veteran someday, stems from the fact that as a teenager, he was once the No. 2-ranked shooting guard in the country. Heck, he's never been anything but the best player on the floor his entire life.
That changed this summer – for the better – after his second-round selection by the Dallas Mavericks put him on the practice floor against Dirk Nowitzki and company.
"I got here in the middle of August and I've been here working ever since,'' Ledo says, adding that he practiced against "almost all of them. The only one who wasn't here was Jose Calderon (who was playing with the Spanish national team).''
In Dallas, Ledo is surrounded by basketball stability. He's getting tough love from coach Rick Carlisle and, well, Mark Cuban-style love from Mark Cuban.
Carlisle says, "It's going to depend on his ability to keep it simple. ... This is really the infancy of his career."
Cuban says he "loves, loves, loves'' Ledo.
The Mavs believe if they right moves are made here, Ledo, 20, is destined to be a bargain under the terms of his cleverly-written four-year contract. (DB.com broke the news of those details here). Stability remains a key word due to Ledo having made four different high school stops before making no college-level stop at all.
He played at Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island as a sophomore and won a state title. He transferred to St. Andrew's Prep School. (And just so you know high school isn't like it was when we were kids, when the fellas from your neighborhood were the fellas on your basketball team, his St. Andrew's running mate was future fellow rookie pro Michael Carter-Williams). Then he moved across state lines to Connecticut and Kent School. And then one more move, to yet another state, and Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, Oh, and then back to South Kent for his senior season.
By the time he was to make the move to Providence, the NCAA ruled him a Ledo a "partial qualifier.'' That ruling would allow him to participate in practice but not in games.
So Ricky Ledo was on the move again. To nowhere, really, until arriving in Dallas.
While he's bursting with confidence – something that might get squeezed out of him over the course of the coming weeks when he learns how many other guys in the NBA were once five-star recruits, too – he is also reasonable in his self-assessment with us.
Things he needs to work on?
"The defensive end for sure,'' Ricky says. "And strength.''
The aspects of his game that seem NBA-ready?
"My ability to shoot, and to shoot with range,'' he says.
How he fits with the Mavs?
"I'm not sure how they'll work the positions here,'' Ledo says. "I'm definitely a guard, not a forward. I'll probably play shooting guard, but I could also play the point.''
Is his ball-handling really up to that task? "Yes, definitely,'' Ledo says.
His fellow rookies recently voted him "Funniest in Class'' (and "Most Overlooked'') and we've seen glimpses of that already. We asked him for his true height. "I'll probably be listed at 6-7, but I'm really 6-6,'' he laughs. His new teammates get a kick out of him, too.
"Oh, he's a beauty,'' Shawn Marion says.
There was a time when Ledo wanted to sell people on the idea that had he played at Providence, or anywhere in college, he would've been a high first-round pick. That's immaterial now. In the back of his mind, he's got some Jamal Crawford in him, or some Penny Hardaway. But that's immaterial, too, at least for the moment. Dallas traded to the 43rd spot to get him, and he is working to establish that he deserves being taken even at that level. That doesn't mean beating out Monta Ellis as the starting 2-guard. For the moment, it doesn't mean even getting regular-season time behind Ellis. Ledo might be at the end of this bench or at the front of the Texas Legends' D-League roster.
For now? He fired up seven shots in 10 minutes in Memphis on Wednesday, making two of them. That doesn't look good in the boxscore. But for the second straight game, Ledo was on the floor to close for the Mavs. And in Memphis, after the Mavs starters constructed a 23-point third-quarter lead that the regular bench guys let shrink, Ledo joined non-guaranteed vets Renaldo Balkman and Devin Ebanks on the floor to fuel a 13-7 run to seal the 95-90 win.
And while he remains firm in his belief that time will prove he was "the best 2-guard in the draft,'' he seems to understand that skipping the college step doesn't mean he can skip the next ones.
"First I just have to show I belong," Ricky Ledo says. "I'm a kid coming straight from high school to play in the NBA. That's where it starts."
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