BLANCHARD — Bridge Creek basketball star Ryan Spangler has added several titles to his name.
The Oklahoman's Super 5 Player of the Year. The state's Gatorade Player of the Year. Parade All-American.
But for him, the simplest is best. Just call him Ryan.
“That's just how he is,” Bridge Creek coach Jason Sanders said. “He told me early on that he was going to commit to a college and sign early. He just didn't like the attention.”
It's not that Spangler dislikes the attention, or doesn't appreciate it. He just doesn't crave it. He's a relaxed kid, soft-spoken and polite. An unassuming star.
The 6-foot-8 stat-machine started gathering scholarship offers late last summer after some impressive performances on the AAU circuit.
He and his family quickly put together a list of their favorites and scheduled visits in one crazy month last September that involved Friday night football games and Saturday morning flights to places like Spokane, Wash., and Boulder, Colo.
Spangler wanted to find the right place for him, so he could commit early and sign in November.
“Going through the recruiting process really affected him,” said Caden Locke, a close friend and teammate in football and basketball. “You could tell it was bothering him, that it was always on his mind.
“He had this huge, life-changing decision to make and it was tough. But once he made it, he was back to being the same ol' Ryan.”
That's the Ryan he prefers to be.
“He doesn't want to separate himself from his friends,” said Larry Spangler, Ryan's father. “If he had a friend at the house, he didn't like us to talk to him about, ‘Hey, Gonzaga called today,' or ‘Creighton called.'
“If I was in his shoes, I'd be walking around with a big head. But he doesn't elaborate on those things. He's gotten a lot of honors, but he goes on about his business. It's great, and he appreciates them, but he's just down-to-earth.”
Larry works in the oil field these days, but he spent a good part of his adult life as a high school football coach at stops like Healdton, Crooked Oak, Warner, Marlow and a couple Texas schools. His wife, LeAnn, coached girls basketball along the way.
“He's always been around sports,” Larry said. “His birthday is in October, so it's the middle of football season. So most of his birthday parties were held in the locker room after practice.”
Ryan was born in Ardmore while Larry was coaching at Healdton, and the influence of small-town life in Oklahoma has had a hefty impact on Ryan's mental makeup.
“We've always instilled in all of our kids that whatever you expect to get out of something, you better put into it,” Larry said. “If you're gonna do something, do it 100 percent. Don't just halfway do it, and they've all kind of lived by that.”
There are a lot of physical gifts that set Ryan apart on the basketball court, but his mental approach might be more important. He steps on the court with a refined intensity that is difficult to explain.
“He is as cerebral as any player I've been around,” Sanders said. “He's not a very emotional kid. He doesn't lose his cool. In fact, there were times he kept me from losing my cool. That just ties into his personality. He doesn't get angry or aggressive in that type of nature. But at the same time, he's liable to go out and block 15 of your shots.
“He's just a unique kid. I've never seen a kid like him. I think that's a big part of his success.”