Former Park great signs with MSU

By: 
Neil Patrick Healy

Photo courtesy of Sheridan College Athletics

Sheridan sophomore guard and former Park High standout Ladan Ricketts pulls up for a 3-pointer during a game last season in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Former Park High basketball standout Ladan Ricketts put a bet on himself two years ago, knowing that he was a Division I player.

That bet paid off yesterday, as he signed his letter of intent to play guard at Montana State University with two years of eligibility remaining.

Ricketts was coming off a high school career at Park where he was two-time All-State, three-time All-Conference and won the Gallatin Valley Player of the Year award his senior year after averaging 24.2 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the 3-point line. Despite the accolades, Ricketts wasn’t getting the attention he was hoping for from Division I colleges.

He was garnering interest from some NAIA programs, while Montana and Montana State offered walk-on spots, but Ricketts’ goal was to be a Division I player on scholarship.

“I knew I was a scholarship player,” Ricketts said. “I was better than that.”

Rather than settling for anything less than what he wanted, Ricketts went the junior college route by committing to Sheridan College in Wyoming, hoping that a couple years of development would benefit him. He entered the JUCO ranks needing to further develop his game while also growing physically to hang with the tougher competition Division I basketball would offer. Region IX, the division Sheridan plays in, has a reputation of producing D-I talent, which helped Ricketts improve his game.

“When (Ladan) came in his freshman year, he was more of a spot-up shooter,” said Sheridan head coach Matt Hammer. “A Majority of his shots were from 3 and that was about it. He didn’t really try to do much more with his game as far as scoring the ball. It came off guys driving and penetrating and kicking it to him or the post kicking it out to him and he’s catching and shooting. This year, he expanded his game offensively a little bit. He had a lot of pull-ups and got to the rim and was able to get to the free throw line more often than he did as a freshman.”

Hammer noted that Ricketts’ play on the defensive end had elevated as well.

“Defensively, he was one of our smarter players,” Hammer said. “He always knew where to be and what to do on defense, where as a freshman, he was guarding older guys and at times he had trouble keeping them in front with his quickness and everything. As a sophomore this year, he guarded the ball a lot better. He was more physical, more aggressive. He was the guy that really, more so than his freshman year, contributed a lot more on both ends of the floor.”

Two years later, Ricketts has developed into a more refined prospect. Standing close to 6-foot-6 and listed at 180-pounds, he has grown into the prototypical frame for a guard at the Division I level, with still room to mature. His game reflects that, averaging 13.1 points per game as a sophomore while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the 3-point line in about 19 minutes per game.

Close to his goal, Ricketts went into his second college recruiting process in as many years. This time, he was getting the looks he wanted. He had offers from Louisiana Monroe and MSU, with other programs looking to get him on campus for a visit, including Utah State, UNC Greensboro, Charleston Southern University, South Alabama, South Dakota State, South Dakota, Idaho, Idaho State and Portland State.

While on his visit to MSU, Ricketts and his parents were watching film with the coaches. He was being briefed on what role he would play and what his responsibilities with the team would be when he caught everyone in the room off guard by committing on the spot.

“Neither his dad nor I saw that coming,” said Rickett’s Mother, Kara Stermitz. “We didn’t know when it would come, and there were just tears in both of our eyes. We were so proud that he had mentally come to that place on his own.”

Ricketts was sold on the program both athletically and academically. While not a determining factor, the proximity to home is an added bonus for him and his family.

“I was concerned about how much overtime I would have to work to pay for plane tickets, to be completely honest,” Stermitz said. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be something I’ll have to work toward.’ So this is a great relief.”

The Bobcats are coming off a down year, finishing 13-19 overall, 6-12 in Big Sky Conference play and a first-round exit in the conference tournament, but Ricketts’ shooting seems to fill a desperate need for a team that shot a mere 35 percent from behind the arc. Star guard Tyler Hall entered his name in the NBA Draft process last week, but did not hire an agent, leaving the window open for him to return for his senior year. With no returning players shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line, Ricketts could be looked to early to fill that role.

Ricketts enters MSU with the aspiration to get a degree in education with the hope to teach business and computer science.

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