By Jadon Frank
Ryan Penner is following in the footsteps of another great Manitoba basketball player by committing to play for Briercrest next season.
Penner, a six-foot-two guard from Winkler, MB played with Travis Krahn at Garden Valley Collegiate (GVC) during the 2009-10 season. Krahn played for the University of Winnipeg last season.
Walter Giesbrecht, Penner’s high school coach at GVC, has been watching Penner develop for the last five years.
“I first encountered Ryan while officiating several of his junior high games when he was in Grade 8,” Giesbrecht said. “I instantly knew that he was going to be a special player. His passion for the game was obvious then, and has only grown since.”
Aside from starring as a point guard and shooting guard for the GVC Zodiacs for all four years of high school, Penner also competed for the Winnipeg Wolves basketball club team and represented Manitoba as part of the 15U team. He helped lead Manitoba to a fourth place finish at the 2010 15U Nationals and during the 2012 club season helped the Winnipeg Wolves to a Provincial Club Championship.
Penner’s Manitoba U15 and club coach, Chiranjit (Chit) Goswami, had similar sentiments of Penner.
“When I first met Ryan, while helping coach the Manitoba U15 Provincial Team, my first impression was that he was surprisingly mature for his age,” Goswami said. “That is in terms of both his physical play on the court, as well as his affable demeanor off the court. It was startling to encounter a teenager that displayed courtesy and respect in such a natural and sincere manner.”
“Since then, Ryan has become a more complete athlete, leader, and person,” Goswami continued. “After coaching him for the past three years, he has continued to develop his skills, while substantially enhancing his comprehension of how to play effectively within a team-orientated style. Over the years I've observed him become more comfortable as a leader, as he has become much more vocal and encouraging to his teammates.”
“The most impressive growth that I've noticed in Ryan is that he has become more resilient when experiencing disappointments,” Goswami continued. “He has also become more comfortable pushing his personal limits and venturing beyond his own comfort zone to overcome obstacles, while still remaining humble.”
“Ryan is one of the nicest guys that I have encountered,” Giesbrecht added. “You will not be able to find anyone with something negative to say about Ryan. He has a genuine interest in the people who are around him, whether teammates, coaches, or anyone else. It is impossible not to like him.”
“As a player, he has been asked to carry a heavy load,” Giesbrecht continued. “As a ninth grade player he was a key player on a strong varsity team that was led by Travis Krahn. At that stage, his role was to spread the floor with his shooting and make hustle plays. As a tenth grade player, he became our best player, and was required to take the team on his back and do the bulk of the scoring and rebounding. He had many 30-plus point scoring games in Grade 10 and actually had two 40-point games in one week. As he moved into his Grade 11 and 12 years, he continued to be a quality outside shooter while improving on his post game and playing inside a bit more.”
Briercrest head coach Rod Adrian has been encouraged by what he has observed in Penner.
“Ryan Penner comes to us with the leadership skills and playing ability that will help our team from day one,” the third year coach said. “As a gifted multi-sport athlete he also brings strength and speed to our roster with a fantastic work ethic. Ryan’s outgoing personality and friendly attitude will bring encouragement to all he comes in contact with as he genuinely cares for others and allows Christ to shine through. I am really excited about the potential that Ryan has to be a leader, on and off the court, and to see his skills develop.”
Giesbrecht summarized Penner’s strengths as an athlete and person.
“He's someone who can unify a locker room and bring people together,” Giesbrecht said.
“Ryan brings a great combination of size and strength for his wing position,” Giesbrecht continued. “He is often too quick for players that match up in strength, and too strong for players who match up in quickness. His three-point shooting will stretch defenses and make them pay for helping on penetration. I feel like his game will transfer really well to the next level. He is a gym rat. Over the past year, my arrangement with Ryan was that if he wanted to be in the gym at 6:45 the next morning, he just needed to text me before midnight. Needless to say, I missed out on lots of sleep this past year.”
Penner has been an honour roll student at GVC for every year of high school. A multi-sport athlete, Penner has been playing basketball since the age of nine and also played soccer, baseball and volleyball throughout high school. He is currently playing Manitoba Junior baseball for the Altona Bisons.
Giesbrecht expects Penner to be very successful off the court at Briercrest as well.
“Ryan is strong academically and I anticipate him doing well in his transition,” Giesbrecht said. “I'm sure there will be some challenges along the way, but I see him being successful as a student and an athlete at Briercrest. This is an opportunity he really wanted for himself, a chance to follow in Travis Krahn's steps, and he won't let it slip.”
Goswami is excited to see Penner grow at Briercrest.
“I expect him to adapt to a new role at Briercrest, maintain the same focus and resiliency that we have tried to impart upon our players, and establish higher standards that motivate him to improve himself in practices, games, within the classroom and in his personal life” Goswami said. I expect him to transfer the lessons he's learned from us and his other coaches to all aspects of his life because while he can only be a great basketball player for a brief portion of his life, he can certainly continue being a great person for the rest of his life and take great joy in helping others to do the same.”
Goswami and Giesbrecht both believe that Penner’s family deserves a lot of credit in his development.
“It's rare nowadays to find such fantastically authentic and reliable people as Ryan and his family,” Goswami said. “I'm proud to say that Ryan and his family were part of our Wolves program as he's the type of athlete that serves to exemplify the standards of everything we want our players to achieve both on and off the basketball court.”
Penner, who is planning to study Business Administration at Briercrest along with some Bible courses, is excited to come to Briercrest this fall.
“I’m looking forward to travelling with the team, playing basketball and growing as a Christian,” Penner said. “Some of my favourite trips have been to basketball tournaments in Minneapolis and Kansas.”
2013-14 Briercrest College Men’s Basketball Recruiting Class
G Daniel Briscoe • 6-4 • 3rd • Kelowna, BC/UBC-O (PacWest/CCAA)
G Ryan Penner • 6-2 • 1st • Winkler, MB/Garden Valley Collegiate
G Ethan DeCock • 6-1 • 1st • Calley, AB/Livingstone High School
G Josh Tippe • 6-0 • 1st • Regina, SK/Regina Christian School
G Jason Lamb • 6-2 • 1st • Lethbridge, AB/Willow Creek Composite
F Brendan Adrian • 6-3 • 1st • Caronport, SK/Caronport High School