Posted Jun 14, 2013 1:24 PM
Some NBA Draft analysts consider Ricky Ledo a bit of a throwback to a time before one and done, when high school players could bypass college and attempt to make the jump straight to the league. That's only partially true.
Sure, NBA teams evaluating the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Ledo's potential as a shooting guard with point guard leanings don't have much to go on, given that he didn't play college basketball because the NCAA declared him a partial qualifier for the 2012-13 season. But for the nine months he was under the care of Providence coach Ed Cooley, Ledo practiced, scrimmaged, conditioned, lifted weights and was taught life lessons. He's far more advanced than a player coming directly from high school.
As for anyone who doesn't think Ledo had the chance to demonstrate his skills under game conditions ... well, Cooley and the NBA scouts who turned up at Providence practices in growing numbers as the season progressed might beg to differ. The level of competition wasn't the equivalent of playing Syracuse, Notre Dame or Pittsburgh. But anyone who saw the Friars scrimmage got an eyeful of Ledo.
"He had a 'wow' play just about every practice," Cooley said. "Stuff you can't teach. Ricky is an explosive scorer, and a very good athlete. He's got incredible range on his shot, too, out to 25 feet or more. If you're a defender, there's just nothing you can do with that."
Ledo served a role on the Friars' scout team as the opposing team's point guard, a task for which he may have been overqualified.
"If we were preparing for Louisville, he was Peyton Siva," Cooley said. "If it was Syracuse, he'd be Michael Carter-Williams. He was an incredible point guard who could get to the rim on us easily. But then he'd make six 3s in a row from 25 feet. I had to tell him Siva and Carter-Williams couldn't shoot it like that."
Reached before a midweek workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his 11th session with an NBA team, Ledo talked about having to readjust his goals after the NCAA declared he could practice at Providence but not play.
"You think you're going to play and they throw a curve ball at you," Ledo said. "But once I knew my situation, I just wanted to be one of the best teammates on the team."
That job was easier said than done.
"It was tough," Ledo said. "Because every day, you practice like you're a part of the team. But on game days, when you see your teammates warming up and getting ready to play, you want to be out there too. It was hard not being able to help my team on the floor."
Ledo's status as a partial qualifier was a result of a midseason transfer from one prep school to another in 2010-11. The school at which he finished the season, Notre Dame Prep, had been under NCAA scrutiny, and Ledo wasn't the only player on the team who was eventually declared ineligible. Because Ledo started his high school career at yet a third school -- St. Andrews in Barrington, R.I, where one of his teammates was Carter-Williams -- he has been labeled by some as a basketball gypsy, a tag that carries a negative connotation.
Cooley laughs at that, even though Ledo checked out at Providence without ever playing a game.
"Ricky is a really good kid," Cooley said. "You read a lot of the thing written about him. But when you get to know him, you see what kind of person he is."
Said Ledo, "The real me is different than the perceived me."
As far as Ledo's decision to declare for the Draft, Cooley has no issues with it, even though he knew Ledo, rated one of the top 25 players in his senior class, could have been a transformative player.
"Without question, if Ricky was eligible, he's one of the top 20 collegiate players last year," Cooley said. "And I think we're an NCAA tournament team. Selfishly, of course I wish he'd have stayed, and my advice for any kid, no matter how talented, is to get an education.
"But I never want to take away dreams and opportunities. So I tried to educate him and get him all the information I could about his draft status. I'm in 100 percent support of his decision. Having a kid like Ricky in your program is about like me marrying Kim Kardashian. It's probably not going to last too long."
Ledo expected to endure his year as a partial qualifier and play for the Friars next season. But starting around February, he couldn't help but notice the growing number of NBA scouts. Kevin McNamara, the Providence Journal basketball writer who's actually seen Ledo play in a game, albeit in high school, tells a story about the time Cooley had to cut short a practice before a handful of NBA scouts who had come to watch Ledo had much of a chance to evaluate him.
"Cooley felt badly," McNamara said. "So he worked Ricky out afterwards by himself. One of the scouts went out of his way to say it was one of the greatest shooting exhibitions he'd ever seen."
Ledo's agent, Seth Cohen, has heard several comments like that the last month.
"I believe Ricky's the best shooter in the draft," Cohen said. "Many of the GMs I've talked to after his workouts are saying the same thing. He was a prolific scorer in high school. Had he had the opportunity to play last year, he would have been a prolific scorer in college. I think he'll be able to score at the next level as well."
Ledo believes that, too, but he's been eager to show some of his other skills during workouts. He's a better than average passer who in a pinch could play some point in the NBA.
"I think that's overlooked a lot in my game," Ledo said. "The ability to pass the ball and make the right play. I'm a two, but I can play combo guard."
Besides his obvious attributes, Ledo has one other thing going for him.
"Ricky is a tough, edgy confident kid," Cooley said. "He's not gonna back down. He will not back down at all."
Ledo's confidence comes out when he's asked about his decision to declare for the draft, and the possibility he might not be chosen in the first round.
"I never question myself whether I did the right thing," he said. "This was the right thing for me, and I'll never look back."
Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
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