Southern California brings to mind images of movie stars, sunshine, and beaches full of beautiful people. Upstate New York could not be more different, and yet incoming Siena guard, and Siena’s first division one player from California, Ryan Oliver, perfectly fits the mold of a Siena Saint.
The road to Siena has not been without adversity for Oliver. Oliver began his high school career on a high note. Earning a starting spot as a freshman, Ryan went on to lead his team in scoring, only to see the school close at the conclusion of his freshman year. He went on to transfer to Loyola H.S, where his brother had played, and went on to have successful sophomore and junior years in which his team lost in the sectional finals and state playoffs respectively.
It was here at Loyola that Oliver met former Siena great, and now high school basketball coach, Geoff Walker. While it would be easy to assume Walker would steer one of his star players towards wearing the green and gold, Oliver told us Walker respected his decision process and never once pushed his alma mater on him.
“I’d ask him abut it, and he’d answer any questions I had,” said Oliver of speaking with Walker about Siena, “but he never really pushed for me to come here. He always said, ‘I think it’s a good move, but either way I’m still going to be here for you.’”
While Siena wasn’t in the recruiting mix early on, Oliver’s recruitment was heating up. All that evaporated the summer following his junior year. Playing in an AAU game, Oliver suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.
“It was hard. I had to work three times as hard just to be one step behind,” said Oliver of returning from his knee injury. “I just wanted to keep pushing myself. It’s always been a goal of mine to play Division I basketball and hopefully move on to play professional eventually. I just really wanted it that bad, so I decided to put in the hard work and knew it would all be worth it at the end of the day.”
After missing his senior basketball season, Oliver enrolled at Northfield Mount Herman, a prep school in Massachusetts, to continue the pursuit of his goal to play Division I basketball. The hardwork paid off. Oliver led the team in scoring, helped his team win the division championship, and in the process saw recruiting interest begin to once again take off. It was around Christmas of last year that Siena Head Coach Mitch Buonaguro saw Oliver play in two games and offered the sharp shooting guard a scholarship.
“Towards the end of the season I started narrowing down my list further and further,” said Oliver. “I ended up with Hofstra, Siena, Fairfield, Tulane, Delaware, and a couple of other schools. Then i narrowed it down to Fairfield and Siena. I went on my visit to Siena and fell in love with it, I wanted to commit afterwards, but I had promised Fairfield a visit.”
In the end Siena matched up with Oliver’s lists of wants in a school and basketball program, verbally committing to the Saints on April 10, 2012.
“I wanted a coaching staff I could relate to and felt really comfortable with. I wanted a team that had a family atmosphere. I wanted to play in a big time area, and I think the Times Union Center definitely fits that, and I wanted the national exposure, and with Siena getting to the tournament those three years, and with their chances to make the tournament each year, it really appealed to me.”
He has found the adjustment to Siena a smooth transition. His year at a prep school helped prepare him for the rigors of Division I workouts. Oliver is determined to keep fullfiling his goals, and with his track record we have no doubt he will. So aside from a passion for the game and a drive to succeed, what else do Siena fans have to look forward from Oliver on the court?
“I can shoot the ball really well. I can score in a variety of ways. Also, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win,” said Oliver of his game. “Whether that’s taking a charge, grabbing an extra rebound, guarding their best player, whatever it takes, I just want to win.”
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