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Big 12 basketball: Despite detours, everything has worked out fine for Ryan Spangler

Spangler led Bridge Creek to unprecedented success, and he’s helped OU reach the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 2 seed. But he had to make a few stops along the way.
by Ryan Aber Published: March 12, 2014

In mid-February 2012, Larry Spangler took a seat at Lloyd Noble Center.

Sometime during the Oklahoma-Texas basketball game that followed, Spangler pulled out his phone and fired off a text message.

“Buddy, you made a good choice,” the message to his son, Ryan Spangler, then a freshman at Gonzaga, said.

Two years later, Ryan Spangler is the leading rebounder in the Big 12 and has helped the Sooners to the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Championship.

Oklahoma opens the tournament against Baylor at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sprint Center.

Spangler’s defection to Gonzaga wasn’t so much a choice as a forced hand.

Ryan Spangler grew up wanting to play for the Sooners, but Jeff Capel and his coaching staff didn’t recruit the 6-foot-8 forward from Bridge Creek.

But Mark Few’s staff jumped on Spangler early and convinced him to go to school more than 1,500 miles away in Spokane, Wash.

Spangler enjoyed the school and got along with the coaching staff at Gonzaga, but there were two issues that weren’t going away — Spangler was stuck behind a solid contingent of big men, and Spokane was still a long plane ride away from his home just outside Tuttle.

“My family’s always watched me play,” Spangler said. “They came up there at least once a month to watch me play but here, they come every game so there’s nothing like it.”

Almost immediately after the Zags’ season ended in the NCAA Tournament, he talked to Gonzaga coaches about leaving to get closer to home.

Then-assistant Ray Giacoletti tried to talk Spangler into staying, but two weeks later Spangler was granted his release.

Oklahoma was involved almost immediately.

Spangler still longed to be a Sooner, and coach Lon Kruger saw a good fit.

“We didn’t know all the details and all that, but we’d just heard about his talent and we knew he was a terrific rebounder and we knew that if he was a guy that would come back home, how much it would mean to him to play at OU,” Sooners assistant Steve Henson said. “That’s always a big factor with guys. If guys are really, really hungry to play for their local school, that can be a special situation.”

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by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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