By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Just days after the University of Washington recognized his graduating class in the spring of 2008, Ryan Appleby watched the NBA draft with only a passing fancy. The Stanwood native was eligible for that draft, but, having worked out for only one NBA team, knew he wasn’t going to hear his name called.
Tonight, the basketball junkie will watch the draft again — just as he does every year. Only this time, the drama will hit a little closer to his heart.
The exhaustive work put in by UW prospect Quincy Pondexter under the watchful eye of his former Husky teammate adds some local flavor to the event.
Appleby, who starred at Stanwood High School and is UW’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals, has been helping Pondexter develop his game for more than a year. Now 26 and running a personal training business known as Appleby Basketball, the sharpshooter is a big reason Pondexter has gone from underachiever to potential first-round pick in a matter of 12 months.
“I don’t really look at it that way,” said Appleby, who hit a school-record 231 shots from 3-point range at UW and ranks fourth in school history with a 3-point percentage of 41.3. “Regardless of what I did with him, Quincy still had to show up every day and perform in front of 20,000 people and make the shots. And he did that.”
Pondexter, who wasn’t talking to reporters this week as he prepared for the draft, has said in the past that Appleby’s tutelage helped him develop as a shooter. The 6-foot-6 swingman saw his scoring average soar from 12.1 points per game in 2008-09 to 19.3 this past season. He also saw increases in field-goal percentage (from 51.0 to 52.8) and 3-point percentage (from 21.4 to 35.3).
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Appleby’s influence on Pondexter — not to mention a few other Huskies — has helped the program.
“It’s great,” said Romar, noting that Appleby helped Pondexter develop a more traditional shot rather than launching the ball from behind his head. “(Appleby) knows what we want. He’s obviously a fantastic shooter. It’s nice to have a guy like that around.”
Appleby started his business not long after his UW career ended in 2008. Having been passed up by the NBA, he got drafted by the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Developmental League and got several offers from teams overseas. Appleby wasn’t too keen on playing in the D-League or anywhere in Europe, so he unofficially retired from the game.
“I just got tired of playing,” Appleby said this week. “That didn’t mean I didn’t love basketball. I knew if I wanted to stay in the game, I could either do it in training or in coaching. And I liked training because I’ve always spent a lot of time in the gym. It filled a niche for me.”
Appleby’s client base swelled to 40 people at one point, but he prefers to keep it closer to its current total of approximately 20.
The client who stands to gain the most, financially, from working with Appleby Basketball is Pondexter.
After improving his jumper and developing a more well-rounded game, Pondexter is generally regarded as a late first- or early second-round pick in tonight’s draft. If Pondexter slides into the back of the first round, he would make a guaranteed contract worth about $1 million during his rookie season. As a second-round pick, his contract would not be guaranteed unless he makes a 12-man roster.
This time last year, Pondexter wasn’t on too many draft radars. But hard work and some advice from a former teammate helped put him in position to make his dreams come true.
“Someone else in that situation might have quit,” Romar said. “He didn’t. He kept trying to change the story, and the end of the book is going to be pretty good.”
No matter when Appleby hears the name of his friend and client called, he’ll undoubtedly celebrate. Just don’t expect the Stanwood native to take any credit.
“When I was training with him, I wasn’t trying to get anything out of it,” Appleby said. “I was just trying to help out a friend.
“When he gets drafted, I’ll be proud of him. But it’s not because of me.”