By Calder Silcox
June 2, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ryan Wittman’s dad has been making him run all his life.
In Washington D.C., Wittman took the next step in his journey to the NBA draft, participating in a six-man workout for the Wizards staff, which now includes his father, Randy, as an assistant coach.
After an improbable Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA tournament to end his collegiate career, the younger Wittman is taking his sharp-shooting show on the road to try to gain some more exposure before the June 24 draft.
“Obviously when you play well and win games in the tournament that’s only going to help,” Wittman said, though he thinks that the Big Red’s run did more for the school than any individual player.
The 6-foot-7 Wittman picked up Tuesday right where he left off, putting on a display for the Wizards’ coaching staff, as well as the other five players, which included the likes of Maryland’s Eric Hayes, who beat Wittman in the three-point competition at the NCAA Final Four this year in Indianapolis and California’s Jerome Randle, the 2009-10 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year.
“It’s every kids dream who plays basketball to try and get a chance to play in the NBA,” Wittman said. “That’s what this is all about: just trying to show teams what you can do.”
Despite competing against players from higher-caliber leagues like the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-10, Wittman showed off his pro tools. He said he doesn’t think much about the fact that he’s coming from the Ivy League, where he averaged 17.5 points per game last season, and shot a blistering 43 percent from beyond the arc.
“I’m just trying to go out there and concentrate on playing my game,” he said. “Show that you’re competitive, show that you’re in shape.”
Playing in Washington in front of his father was just one stop on Ryan’s tour. He’s headed to Sacramento to play for the Kings Monday and then to his home state of Minnesota on June 22 to work out for the Timberwolves.
He wouldn’t be the first Wittman on the Wolves roster — his father served as head coach there from early-2007 to late-2008, when he was fired in an organizational shake-up.
And he wouldn’t be the only Wittman drafted by Washington. His father’s nine-year professional career began when he was drafted by the Wizards organization (then the Bullets) in 1983 after playing college ball at Indiana. The older Wittman was traded to the Hawks before the season started, then moved to Sacramento and Indiana before he stopped playing in 1992.
The Wizards’ coaching staff, including Wittman, was not available for comment after the workout.
As Ryan works out for teams with familial ties, he’s joined by several others from the Ivy League. Big Red teammate Jeff Foote attended a workout with the Knicks on May 27. Harvard’s Jeremy Lin is also attracting attention from NBA teams. All three attended the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in April, where NBA scouts got to take a look at the Ivy Leaguers — a rare sight in the pre-draft circuit.
In fact, the last Ivy player to be drafted into the NBA was new Penn coach and former Quakers star Jerome Allen, who was drafted by the Timberwolves in 1995. Since 1980, only 15 players have made the jump from the Ancient Eight to the NBA.
Wittman may have the touch and smarts to be the first in 15 years to accomplish that feat, and even more strange than that, he might just do it with the team his father now coaches. While Cornell and Washington had drastically different seasons — one stunned the nation during March Madness while the other floundered amidst off-the-court issues — come draft day, the two teams and two generations of Wittmans may unite.