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Season Countdown: Ryan Gomes

In anticipation of the 2007-08 Minnesota Timberwolves season, TWolvesBlog is counting down the days ’til tip-off by featuring some of our team’s players.  These player articles were written by several of our forum members, as well as the site’s regular contributors.  The seventh piece in this series was written by yours truly, C-Dub.  I’d like to present to you our Jack-Of-All-Trades, largely unknown, third-year small forward Ryan Gomes.

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Ryan Gomes – “It Isn’t Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish”

By: College Wolf

To what great mind is this cerebral quote attributed to?  Why, the Minnesota Timberwolves very own Ryan Gomes.  The 50th overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft out of Providence College, at only 25 years old, has already proven himself to be one of the most mature players on this young Wolves team. Gomes was an All-American Big East standout during his college career, yet did not have the prototypical “size and abilities” craved by NBA teams.  Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers deemed his work ethic and track record substantial enough to take a chance on him with a low second round draft pick.  Ryan has been fighting an up-hill battle since the end of his college career, but it is obvious that he has finally arrived in the “Association.”  We all know where this young man started, but the question is where will he finish?

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Ryan Gomes was born September 1st, 1982 in Waterbury, Connecticut.  He played his high school basketball at Wilby High School and chose to play college ball at Providence College.  The local product was a college standout, garnering a plethora of prestigious awards and compiling gaudy statistics.  Gomes finished his junior season at Providence as a First Team AP All-American, a First Team Wooden All-American, a First Team Sporting News All-American and a Big East First Teamer.  Despite these accomplishments, Gomes decided to go back for his senior season.  Although it would be nearly impossible to top the accomplishments of his junior season, Gomes had a great senior year, as he averaged 21.6 points per game, and 8.2 rebounds per game.  Gomes finished his college career as Providence’s all-time leading scorer and 5th-leading rebounder, tallying 2,138 points and 1,028 rebounds, respectively.   Regardless, it’s quite a head-scratcher as to how he slipped all the way to 50th in the NBA draft after his senior season.  NBA GM’s will regret not drafting Ryan due to their collective misinterpretation of him not having the prototypical skills and size to play in the NBA.  I always say, “One man’s loss is another man’s treasure.”  In this case, it was 29 teams’ loss.

The preparation for the NBA draft was a long, hard process for Gomes.  He attributed slipping until late in the second round to the propensity of NBA scouts to “over-evaluate” players that spend multiple years in college. When any player spends three or four years in college, their “potential” often disappears in the eyes of scouts, as they are deemed as showing “what they can offer.”  He was also labeled a “tweener,” a player without a real position.  Would Gomes play small forward?  Could he play power forward in the NBA, despite only being 6’8”?  Granted he is 6’8” and (a solid) 250 pounds, these were still questions that couldn’t be immediately answered.  The fact that Providence underachieved in the March Madness tournaments did not help his draft stock either.  Although being drafted 50th overall was not his idea of an ideal result, he landed in a good situation with the Boston Celtics.  They were a young, rebuilding team and it appeared certain that Ryan would be able to log decent minutes with their squad. 

Gomes was initially brought in to play small forward, as a substitute for star Paul Pierce, when needed.  The first half of his rookie season was filled with trials and tribulations.  Gomes logged very few minutes and contributed a very small statistical impact.  He did not get many opportunities to show what he was capable of doing on the hardwood.  Fortunately for Gomes, he continued to work hard and maintained a good attitude.  Things can change quickly in professional sports, and it wouldn’t be long until he would get his chance to impress everyone.  His rookie season, players in the Celtic’s rotation started dropping like flies due to injuries.  Their two big men, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins both went down (among other players.)   Coach Glen “Doc” Rivers was forced to insert Gomes into the starting line-up out of necessity.  He mainly played as a “big” in Boston’s rotation, even though he was out of position (as a small forward.)  It didn’t matter which position Gomes was playing, as he excelled in the starting role, and remained a starter even after Kendrick Perkins returned from injury. Gomes, a relentless hustler and team-player, logged 8 double-doubles and routinely scored in double-digits (or more!)  In consecutive games on March 8th and 9th, Gomes logged 27 points and 9 rebounds, as well as 29 points and 11 rebounds.  For his rookie season he averaged 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 61 contests.  However, these numbers are extremely skewed, considering that he played less than 20 minutes per game in nearly half of the games in which he appeared (29 out of 61)   Due to his emergence during the second half of his rookie season, it became apparent that Gomes was capable of playing in the NBA, and would most certainly log increased minutes in the future.

Despite his breakout second half of his rookie season, Gomes took it upon himself to improve further and become the best player that he was capable of becoming.  Coach Rivers and GM Danny Ainge could not decide whether or not to include Ryan on the Celtics Summer League basketball team, but it didn’t matter because Gomes took the decision upon himself.  He showed his maturity by indicating that he loves the game of basketball and insisted on playing for the Summer League team.  Even after his stellar second half, he was quoted as saying he wanted to play in the games “to get better” and that “I knew I’d get in good condition running up and down. This is the right thing for me to prep for the long season ahead.”  How can you not like that?  Gomes dominated the summer league competition and hasn’t looked back since. 

Building off his impressive Summer League outing, Gomes continued to make an impact on the court during his second NBA season.  Doc Rivers recognized his ability and contributions, while giving him a noticeably larger role and increase in playing time.  He started 60 games during his sophomore campaign, playing more than 31 minutes per contest.  Ryan had proven that he earned the right to be on the court, despite the quagmire of players vying for playing time on the young Celtics squad.  Unlike many of his teammates, Gomes was healthy for most of the season, but he did miss 7 consecutive games with a sprained foot.  He was one of only 16 players to record a triple-double last season, when he dropped 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Charlotte Bobcats on November 8th.  He also scored a career high 31 points against he Washington Wizards, while averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game throughout the season.  Another little known fact is that he also shot better than 38% from three-point line, further displaying his versatility as a shooter.  Wolves fans got a small glimpse of what Gomes is capable of on March 4th, when he scored 21 points and grabbed a career high 17 rebounds against the Timberwolves.  It was another successful season in what looked like a very promising young career.

Like I mentioned in my Gerald Green Preview Article Gomes was included in the blockbuster “Kevin Garnett Trade” this past summer.  Like Green and the other 4 players that were traded, Gomes can’t let the pressure and expectations of being traded for KG weigh too heavily upon him.  And like Green, this probably wasn’t the most ideal scenario that he envisioned to being the third year of his career, but it is up to Ryan to make the best of what he’s been handed.  Even though Gomes liked his situation in Boston immensely, he has not complained one iota about being traded to the harsh confines of the bitter-cold Midwest.  His acceptance of the trade and vow to give his all to his new team and its fans only reinforces how much of a consummate professional Gomes truly is.

As I’ve reiterated over and over, Gomes excels in many areas on the court, although is not considered a “master” at any one skill.  That’s ok though, because of the versatility, hustle, heart, and smarts that he does bring to the table.  Gomes is adept at establishing position down-low against bigger players, and is an above average rebounder.  He is a solid 6’8” and 250 pounds, with a similar build to that of Ron Artest.  While his man defense is not in the realm of Artest’s, Gomes is a more than capable of defender due to his high “basketball IQ” on the court.  He executes his defensive assignments, and realizes those of his teammates, which has established his value as a good “team defender.”  He has a soft touch on his midrange jumper, and has vastly increased his range and accuracy out to the three-point line.  Not to be underestimated is his free throw percentage; which was an excellent 81% from the line last season.  Gomes does not possess eye-popping athleticism, but his superb fundamentals and footwork more than make up for it.

As much as I love Gomes, n player is without fault.  Gomes is an average, but not spectacular passer.  He averaged 1.6 assists per game last season, but only 1.4 turnovers per game, which isn’t terrible.  He isn’t known for his shot blocking, however that should not be an issue for the Wolves since he will be playing predominantly small forward.  One of the biggest strikes against him coming out of college was that he was a “tweener,” having no real position.  However, Gomes has shown that labels such as that do not apply in his case.  In Boston he excelled at power forward, down-low on the block.  Now as a small forward with the Wolves, he has since increased his shooting range and is capable of playing on the wing, as well as bang with the big boys down-low. 

I expect big things from Gomes this season, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to project him as being one of the better players on our team when all is said and done.  After watching the Wolves this pre-season, I can’t envision a scenario in which Gomes isn’t our starting small forward.  He should log heavy minutes this season due to his versatility, solid defense, and heady play.  I’m not one that usually predicts player statistics, but I’ll make an exception.  I truly believe that he is capable of dropping 12-15 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.  That would be great production from a player that most casual NBA “fans” thought was simply filler for the KG trade.  Lastly, I think Ryan will go a long ways to fulfilling at least some of the leadership void, both on and off the court.  Gomes is already one of the classiest and most mature players on our squad.  He’s only 25 years old, but is apparent that he already “gets it.”

For those of you that didn’t already know, Ryan Gomes has been my favorite player in the NBA not named Kevin Garnett ever since he began starting for the Celtics (towards the end of his rookie season.)  I’m expecting some great things from my guy Gomes this season.  Don’t worry, as I won’t blame you for jumping on the Ryan Gomes bandwagon during his soon-to-be break out season for the T-Wolves.  Better late than never, and believe me, there is still plenty of room available.  But you had better get onboard soon, because I’m driving and the wagon is taking off!


And finally, check out these links to see Ryan Gomes in action:

     • Slammin Ryan Gomes Mixtape
     • Video Interview on Media Day

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