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Senior center leads by example
By Ross Weener
Ryan Smalligan
Senior Ryan Smalligan ranked second for the Knights in assists this year.

Although Ryan Smalligan wasn’t the star on his high school basketball team, Calvin head coach Kevin Vande Streek saw something in him that he liked. Four years later, the 6’ 8” product of East Grand Rapids (Mich.) High School was the focal point of the Knight defense, leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots.

“Ryan is a great testament to a player that wants to work really hard to be successful,” said Vande Streek. “We saw some things in high school that we really liked about Ryan. We knew that if he wanted to work hard, he could develop into a good player for us.”

Smalligan, who started in 26 games this year while missing the other three due to injury, has developed into the player that Vande Streek envisioned. He averaged nearly eight rebounds per game and amassed 54 blocked shots, ranking him among the NCAA Division III leaders in blocks per game. Smalligan also led the MIAA in blocks per game and was second in rebounding. At the conclusion of the year, he was named to the All-MIAA second team and received MIAA Player of the Week honors for his play in the MIAA tournament. In addition, Smalligan finished sixth on the Calvin career list for blocked shots, with 88.

While Smalligan excelled on the defensive end of the floor, Vande Streek called attention to his tri-captain’s role in the half-court offense. “Offensively, Ryan is a very good player; he is just not a scorer,” said Vande Streek. “He is a great passer and he understands the game — those kinds of players are very valuable to a team. You will see Dan Aultman, Kevin Broene or Chris Prins score, but almost always during that possession Ryan did something to help his team score a basket.”

Another little-known attribute about Smalligan is his ability to find open shooters either from the post or in transition. Smalligan ranked second for the Knights in assists, averaging 2.0 assists per game. Calvin’s aptitude to share the basketball made scoring easier for the Knights, who ranked among the NCAA Division III leaders in scoring average, with an average of 83.1 points per game.

“It’s a big honor [to be a captain], and I have appreciated the whole opportunity to lead,” Smalligan said. “It’s a big responsibility because I know that the other guys are looking at me to see what kind of example I am setting.”

While the vocal leadership for the team was more likely to come from fellow classmates Broene and Prins, Vande Streek appreciated Smalligan’s leadership style. “The neat thing about Ryan has been his personal development,” said Vande Streek. “If you had asked me three years ago if Ryan was going to be a captain, I would not have thought that he had that assertiveness in him.

“But over the course of the summer he really took charge of some things,” he continued. “He is a very organized person and is the kind of guy that will make his teammates accountable. He is a leader by example and was a great complement to Kevin and Chris.”

With such a great academic and athletic reputation, Calvin was a good fit when he went searching for a school to attend, Smalligan said. “I was here for almost all of the home NCAA III tournament games in 2000, and I loved the atmosphere,” he said. “I was also interested in engineering, and Calvin has a great engineering program.”

Smalligan will graduate in May with an engineering degree and a concentration in chemical engineering. While graduate school is in the future, Smalligan wants to test the job market before going back for more schooling.