“They started off man-on-man with Ryan and then they put two on him and by the fourth quarter they had three guys on him,” said Ryan Spangler's father Larry. “That's when I saw that he was pretty tough.”
At Gonzaga, it developed thanks to daily battles in practice with 7-footers Robert Sacre and, to a lesser degree, Kelly Olynyk.
“If they were going to get into the lane, I'd hit them or I was going to get dunked on all the time,” Spangler said. “It's hard to move a 280-pound man (Sacre) that's as strong as him.”
Then when Spangler arrived in Norman, sitting out a year, the toughness kept right on building.
He spent much of last season guarding Romero Osby in practice.
“Guarding Ro, you've got to be fast guarding him but you've got to be tough too,” Spangler said. “Last year was a big steppingstone for me becoming tough and not letting anybody push me around.”
In several games during Big 12 play — the game at Kansas State, the home win over Iowa State and both Bedlam wins especially — Spangler has had stretches of dominance on both ends.
“Every time he goes on little spurts when he keeps getting boards and stuff, it's like an energy boost for the team,” D.J. Bennett said. “We feed off his hard work.”