Opportunities in life don’t come around very often. When Beaufort High alumnus Ryle Owens was given a chance to try to keep his hoops dreams going, he made the most of it. Now, he’s eying the NBA Draft.
Most people assume that the league’s prospects were all born to be superstars of their high school teams. That was not the case with Owens. As a Beaufort High Eagle, he never had that golden spotlight. Instead, he was a role player and a shooting specialist.
His coach would draw up specific plays in order for him to take the shot, but there was no evidence that he would become enough of a complete player to take his career forward. Instead, he often sat on the bench taking notes from his teammates and coaches. But the motivation and basketball knowledge he picked up during this time was immense.
“High school ball taught me to wait my turn, stay humble, and put in work,” Owens said. “Over the course of my four years I didn’t play much until my senior year, so I was motivated and continued to work hard to be the best player possible on the court.”
Not a single college gave Owens an offer coming out of high school. But that wasn’t enough to destroy his hoop dreams.
One of his former coaches gave him a contact at USC Salkehatchie. It was the only basketball door left. He spent two years at the junior college, where he again was not a staple of the starting lineup. Even as a sophomore he started just seven games. But in the time he was given, he averaged nearly eight points and gave some notice that he wasn’t wanting this basketball ride to end.
Even the best could not get to their level alone. That’s where Beaufort Academy athletic director Nick Field came in.
The two first met when Owens was doing summer workouts at Beaufort High with a couple other alumni. Field, then an assistant basketball coach at BHS, was beyond impressed with Owens’ work ethic, which grew his basketball talent.
“So we’re doing this workout and right away I noticed that he’s got incredible ball-handling,” Field recalls. “It’s been a lot of fun, because when you get to work with Ryle, it takes you back to when you were a fan as a kid. He can do things that are really fun to watch. He can jump out of the gym, he’s got a great shot, and he’s very quick. He’s working hard and doing everything he can in these drills that I’m putting on. Right away I noticed that Ryle’s the type of kid that if he gets an opportunity, he’s going to make the most of it. Everything that’s been presented before him he’s ran away with.”
But it was Owens who committed even more to learning from Field through his many brutal workouts on the court.
“I never knew you had to work so hard before I started working with Coach Field,” Owens said. “These were some of the most difficult workouts that I had ever done. It definitely made me grow as a player and a person, but seeing the workouts that he puts you through and seeing how next level it was really translated to the court.”
After it again looked like his basketball dreams were finished after junior college, Owens was given an opportunity at Young Harris College in the Georgia mountains. He was offered a spot by coach Jeremy Currier, who spent eleven seasons at Pfeiffer University before joining the Mountain Lions. He preaches a fast-paced style of play emphasizing 3-pointers on offense and active hands leading to steals on defense. Owens’ shooting prowess proved to be an ideal fit for Currier’s offense. In his senior season, he sank 74 threes.
“Earlier, I was only known as a shooter, so being able to carry that over and add in other parts of my game definitely helped a lot,” Owens said. “At Young Harris we had to make 300 threes some days before we could practice with the rest of the team. On top of that, I’m shooting on my own time. So carrying that 3-point shot has opened up so much more to my game. “
In the meantime, Owens worked on other parts of his game, including his ball-handling, decision making, and defense to become the talented guard he is now. Through his work ethic and the belief of his two coaches, Owens has climbed the ranks all the way from a high school role player to an NBA prospect in 2020. And now, some people are starting to know his name.
“I’m not sure how it happened, but things have just been blowing up for me,” Owens said. “At first while playing at Young Harris I was getting contacted by overseas agents. I’ve always been open to playing overseas, but sometimes people just settle for that option. I wanted to push myself further. Coach Field has been working on my behalf and these NBA agents have taken a chance on me, and when I was presented with the opportunity, it was a clear-cut decision.”
Now, with college basketball behind him, Owens is eyeing a dream that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago — a real chance to compete on the biggest stage of them all. He signed with agents Aaron G. Adams and Steven Kraser earlier this month and plans to enter the NBA Draft set for June 25.
“The NBA was a childhood dream for me, and I never gave up on it,” Owens said. “God has been working things out for me. Coach Field and Coach Currier have been such key people in my life, and they’ve not given up on me.”
Those two were the sparks that cultivated a talented, motivated, and determined man. No matter how much the odds are against him, this kid will get it done. If he’s given even the smallest chance for a spot in the league, watch out.
Ryle Owens isn’t done working yet.
Story by Wes Kerr
Wes Kerr is a graduate of Hilton Head Island High School and Davidson College. He has a passion for statistics and analytics.