The NBA D-League playoffs are here and the Reno Bighorns have managed to clinch the number 1 seed in the Western Conference just one year after missing the playoffs altogether.
While this has been a result of solid team play and some great preparation by David Arsenault Jr. and the rest of the coaching staff, guard Ricky Ledo has been at the forefront of the team’s success. Ledo, a former top prospect coming out of high school, has dealt with numerous challenges over the past few years leading up to this point but they’ve only helped to build him into the player that he’s become.
He committed to Providence College, an institution that was based in his hometown, but problems began to take hold of his career before he was able to step on the court.
At the beginning of his freshman year with the school, the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible and did so again once the second semester rolled around. The entire process was one that became incredibly drawn out. As Ledo tells RidiculousUpside.com, he feels that the NCAA didn’t give him a fair shake.
"I didn’t think the way I was treated was fair. The NCAA controls everything and they say that players aren’t allowed to take money, but they make money off of all of us who are actually drawing in fans and it’s just very hypocritical," Ledo said.
While the NCAA held him out of playing basketball for supposed academic reasons, Ledo noted that he didn’t have any problems in the classroom.
"I had a 3.2 GPA and did everything that they asked of me, but they still wouldn’t let me play and just came up with ridiculous reasons for it."
While not playing hurt from an on-court perspective in terms of his development, red flags began to pop up in regards to his character due to his back and forth with the NCAA. Not only was he going to have to prove to teams that he could play, but he would also have to show that he wouldn’t be a problem off of the court.
"I really don’t understand where the character concerns came from because I was never in trouble and since then I’ve never gotten into any trouble. There are people that have been in trouble that are labeled as good character guys, so I never really understood where the character concerns label came from for me."
With the NCAA in his rearview mirror, Ledo began to workout for teams as the NBA Draft neared and he once again saw his stock start to approach the levels that it was at when he was a high school senior.
Following a litany of pre-draft meetings with teams, Ledo felt that he wouldn’t have to endure all too long of a wait once draft day finally rolled around.
"I was one of the guys that teams were most interested in seeing, so I had a lot of good workouts and thought that I showed everybody what I was capable of. I knew that the year away from the game would work against me, but I was expecting to go in the mid-late first or early-second round," he added.
While nbadraft.net had him going #34 to Houston and Sports Illustrated had him going #27 to Denver, Ledo wound up dropping all the way to 43rd overall, where he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks (who subsequently traded him to the Dallas Mavericks).
"It was cool to be drafted and all and I enjoyed it, but to be honest I was upset that i went that late because I thought that I should have gone earlier. Overall though, I just wanted a chance to prove myself."
With a chance to put everything that had happened over the past year and a half behind him, Ledo finally had the chance to take the court in the NBA. Throughout the 2013-2014 season with Dallas, he would go back and forth between the Mavericks and the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends.
"At that time, i hadn’t played basketball in like a year and a half so it was tough just coming back and getting into rhythm. Along with that, I was up and down between the NBA and the D-League every couple of days so that was tough and it was just a learning experience throughout the year."
Around halfway through his second year after having played just 16 games with the team, Ledo received the call that he was being let go. "I kind of felt like it was going to happen at some point because I wasn’t playing and I had gotten injured, so while it was tough because no one wants to get cut, I was able to mentally prepare for it a bit," he said.
After a brief stint with the New York Knicks to close out the 2015 season, Ledo turned his focus to the 2016 season right when the last whistle blew. He hit the gym and was working relentlessly on getting his jump shot right.
He chose to return to the NBA D-League this season in order to prove to NBA teams that his game was well-rounded and to prove that he should be in the NBA. The work on his jumper paid off and once the All-Star break rolled around, he was rewarded with a spot on the D-League All-Star team.
"I felt like I should have been one of the first picks based on the numbers that I had, but I ended up being an alternate. It was nice to get into the game, but I really should have been one of the top guys selected."
Scoring 21.3 points per game and shooting nearly 40% from three-point range, Ledo has proven what he has known all along: he’s ready for the NBA whenever any team wants to take a chance on him.
"I feel like I’m an NBA player and that I could help out a team if I’m given the chance. It would mean everything to me to make it back to the NBA because that’s why I’m working as hard as I am every day," he conveyed.