‘Good addiction’ fuels Kan. support for Claflin native at Iowa State

The Ryan family posed for a photo following an NCAA Tournament game in 2022.

By COLE REIF
Great Bend Post

When Emily Ryan was in second grade in Claflin, the elementary school put together a talent show. Emily chose to showcase basketball ball handling as her talent in front of the school.

“I could just kick myself because we didn’t take video of it,” joked Lisa Ryan, Emily’s mother. “At the time, I didn’t think a lot about it, but now looking back…yeah.”

A second-grade talent show performance might have been a good sign for what was to come. Emily is now using those ball handling skills as a sophomore with the Iowa State University’s basketball team. Ryan and the Cyclones will compete in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Friday night against Creighton University in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Through 34 games this year, Emily is averaging 13 points per game, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Her 243 assists so far has broken the Iowa State school record for assists in a season.

That success comes from what her mom refers to as a “good addiction.”

“She is addicted to being in the gym and working out,” said Lisa Ryan. “Just going on family vacations where she couldn’t be in the gym for a couple of days would drive her nuts.”

In Ames, Iowa, Emily will show up to the gym at 6:30 am each day and usually returns to the gym in the evenings in addition to going to practice. Her freshman year on campus, was the COVID-19 year, and access to the gym was a little more difficult but that didn’t slow down Ryan.

“Josh Carper is the Director of Basketball Operations at Iowa State and Emily would always contact him last year to let her in the gym,” said Lisa Ryan. “He jokes that he got so sick of Emily because he would always have to let her in the gym.”

Those work habits were similar to her playing days at Central Plains where she helped the Oilers go 106-0 with three state championships and a “Final Four” appearance in 2020 after the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

The success she has had in her first two years in college would probably translate to any university, but it wasn’t always sure that it would be taking place at Iowa State. Ryan had her mind made up on another university in the Midwest until she was convinced to take a visit to Ames.

“She was set on this other university,” said Lisa Ryan. “Her AAU coach, Keith Ferguson, said to take at least two official visits so you have something to compare. She didn’t want to. He asked what her second choice was and she said probably Iowa State. She did and she changed her mind.”

Emily was named to the 2022 All-Big 12 First Team while helping the Cyclones to a 28-6 record. The Sweet 16 matchup against Creighton will be a game, like many others, the Ryan family will be attending in person. The Ryans left Wednesday afternoon to make the 18-hour road trip to North Carolina.

“We’ve gone somewhere to watch Emily almost every weekend this basketball season,” said Lisa Ryan. We didn’t travel sub-state basketball weekend or the St. John Tournament weekend with our son in high school, but we have the route to Ames, Iowa pretty much memorized.”

For the rest of the Barton County area and Ryan supporters across the state, Iowa State tips off against Creighton at 8:30 pm Friday and can be watched on ESPN 2.

“The support in the entire state has been amazing over the past two years,” said Lisa Ryan. “We’ll be somewhere else in the state and someone will come up to us and say something about Emily and how they follow her. We don’t even know who they are…it’s amazing.”

From demonstrating ball handling skills in a second-grade talent show to competing in the NCAA Sweet 16, there will be plenty of supporters in Kansas cheering Friday for Iowa State and the girl with a “good addiction” from Claflin.

“As a parent, I hope she’ll keep enjoying it and it doesn’t become a big stress or anxiety type of thing,” said Lisa Ryan. “It hasn’t and I keep hoping it stays that way. She loves basketball.”

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