CU Buffs forward Frank Ryder looking to contribute for hometown team

Fairview grad used 2018-19 transfer season to get stronger

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Frank Ryder has come home to Boulder after going through two open heart surgeries in the past 17 months.

Frank Ryder returned home battered yet undeterred. Despite significant health concerns, Ryder wanted to continue his collegiate basketball career.

If he needed to pay his own way to keep that dream alive, so be it. Given the circumstances, returning home was well worth it.

As the Colorado men’s basketball team goes through summer workouts, Ryder represents an interesting piece of the puzzle for coach Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes. Yes, the Fairview graduate is a walk-on who faces an uphill battle in landing anything resembling regular court time, particularly if the Buffs’ frontcourt remains healthy throughout the 2019-20 season.

Yet Ryder also isn’t far removed from being a scholarship player at a solid program at the University of San Diego. And after arriving at CU on the heels of two heart surgeries in 17 months to repair a dangerous infection, Ryder displayed steady improvement on the practice floor between November and March.

“I improved a lot physically and just recovered pretty well from my surgeries,” Ryder said. “I’ve been with Steve (Englehart, CU’s strength coach) a lot, and he’s helped me get physically back in shape. My body is better, I’ve gained a lot of muscle. There’s definitely improvement in every aspect of my game. I just kind of got a little more confident. I just got back more into more basketball health since my freshman year at San Diego.

“I’m probably in the best shape of my life physically that I can remember. I lift a lot more than I did in my freshman year at San Diego. I’m just in a lot better shape, a lot more athletic than I was. The biggest thing is conditioning. Just staying healthy.”

The 6-foot-10 Ryder was ineligible this past season anyway after transferring from San Diego, and he used the time to rebuild his body following his most recent surgery on Valentine’s Day of 2018. He has experience, having averaged 4.1 points in 25 games at San Diego before getting struck by the heart infection, and if something unfortunate or unexpected strikes anyone in CU’s frontcourt rotation, it certainly isn’t out of the question that Ryder could work his way off the bench.

Still, all of that conjecture doesn’t take up much space in Ryder’s mind. Now fully healthy and eligible, he is welcome to whatever role he can add to his hometown team as they harbor big expectations for the 2019-20 season.

“I don’t really feel like a walk-on. I just feel pretty good about everything,” Ryder said. ”I’m just going to go out there with an open mind and kind and play my butt off.

“It’s super exciting to be part of a team that has major goals like we have. It’s just good to go out there and help push people. That’s what I’d like to do — push people and get everyone better and just kind of see how far we can take ourselves. The sky is the limit for this team.”