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Beavertons Menten still staying in the game

While he still loves to play, Menten finds himself drawn to coaching more and more

By BILL WILSON

Of the Times

Ryan Menten just can't get enough basketball.

His love for the game has taken him around the country and back. The 1999 Beaverton High School graduate has been a player, a coach, a player-coach, an instructor and a trainer.

And he's only 25.

A good portion of those years have been spent at The Hoop in Beaverton, beginning with a teenager's desire to be a better shooter to the present-day, when others seek him out for his expertise on how to put the ball in the hole.

Menten's dedication has earned him the distinction of being a 'shooter.' But it wasn't always that way.

'I never used to be a shooter,' Menten said. 'It took my sophomore year through my junior summer to become a shooter. If you can dedicate yourself for one summer, you'll be a heck of a player.'

That's what he teaches today's youth as an instructor at The Hoop. And it's the approach he took to earn a reputation that former Beaverton coach Nick Robertson called 'as good of a three-point shooter as we've had at Beaverton.'

During basketball season, Ryan's father, Brian, took him to The Hoop every morning where Ryan would shoot for a couple hours before heading to school. In the offseason, Menten's workload was even greater.

'My dad would drop me off at 6 a.m. and come back at 6 p.m. to pick me up,' Menten said. 'I'd have to make 1,000 jumpers a day. I was working on my muscle memory. It's all about repetition.'

The effort paid off, most notably in a 1999 state playoff game against McMinnville. During the consolation semifinal contest, Menten drained eight 3-pointers to tie the OSAA state playoff mark set by Jefferson's Denmark Reid in 1992.

'I get chills talking about it,' Menten said. 'It's an honor to still hold that record. That was a special game. I was in that zone. If I got the ball, all I was thinking about was shooting.'

And thanks to Roberston, Menten had the OK to do so.

'He's the best coach I've had,' Menten said of Roberstson.' He gave me the green light to shoot. I owe the credit to him doing that.'

But the record doesn't come without a blemish.

'The thing is, we ended up losing that game (in three overtimes),' Menten said. 'I just wanted to win.'

While Beaverton didn't win, the performance did open doors for Menten.

'That game got me my scholarship at Florida,' Menten said. 'One good game at the tournament can change your life.'

He attended Eastern Oregon for one year, but broke his wrist and missed all but five games his freshman season, which he redshirted.

He transferred to Warner Southern in Lake Wales, Fla., and achieved success at the next level. Menten was a two-time NAIA All-American, averaging over 22 points per game with more than 2,000 career points in three years.

Menten led the Royals to the NAIA National Tournament Final Four his senior year. He topped the nation in scoring for part of the 2002-03 season and finished ninth in 3-point percentage with a 47.2 percent clip (111 for 235).

While still a shooter, Menten had to adapt to the collegiate game.

'I got my success as a shooter, but that all changes in college,' Menten said. 'When I went to college, I understood I had to do other things. I learned other ways to score -- come off the screen, penetrate, off the dribble. It took me coming back to the gym in the summers to work on those things.'

Menten keeps finding himself drawn back to The Hoop. It's his comfort zone. Filled with courts from wall to wall, it's no wonder he can spend 60 to 70 hours a week there, including 30 hours a week instructing during the summer.

'I think everybody in the community has played against him or come across him on the court,' Robertson said. 'He's kind of the pied piper of basketball. When you walk in The Hoop, everyone knows who Ryan is. He's just a great kid.'

'The Hoop has been my second home for 12 years,' Menten said. 'I appreciate the opportunity to be here and train and live here.'

While instructing others, Menten also gets a chance to keep his game sharp. He's played semi-pro ball the past three years, starting with a stint for the 2004-05 season as a player-coach for the Denver Truckers of the NABL (North American Basketball League).

In 2005 Menten was the second player to sign with the start-up Vancouver Volcanoes of the IBL (International Basketball League).

'There's a lot of great players in that league. Everybody's just trying to get a shot at the next level,' Menten said. 'I started five or six games then had to pull away because of job obligations at The Hoop.'

Menten returned to finish the last few games with the Volcanoes, but he continues to be tugged in two directions - coaching and playing.

He's served as a varsity assistant and freshman assistant coach at Beaverton High School and is very interested in pursuing coaching. But he just doesn't know if he's ready to give up playing.

'I still want to do semi-pro right now,' he said. 'I'm 25. In my prime. I have that drive to keep playing.

'But I can definitely see myself in a coaching role just the same. It's tough to do both though.'

Regardless, he can still cure his coaching bug in the offseason, where Menten provides plenty of sound advice for the future of the game.

'The rewarding thing for me is to come to The Hoop and people ask me for my advice on shooting,' Menten said. 'I've been able to work with so many great players.'

Robertson, one of the most successful coaches in Oregon history, thinks Menten would make a fine coach when that time comes.

'He attacks coaching the same way he did the game as a player,' Robertson said. 'He really puts his heart into it. He just has a real passion for the game.'

He loves it so much, he'd even give up his place in the record book to the next driven young shooter who might come along. As a motivational tool for area youth, Menten refers back to his record-breaking performance in the state tournament.

'I egg these guys on. That record should be broken,' Menten said. 'That's my mentality. There's a reward out there. I tell them 'I think you can break it.' '

And he means it. As honored as Menten is to hold the record, he'd just as soon see it broken in the interest of promoting the sport.

'If it wasn't for the game of basketball, I don't know what I'd do,' Menten said. 'This game has given me so much. All because of basketball. One round brown ball.'

And a desire to make it go through the hoop.