DYLAN SMITH: FROM BLUES TO THE BIG TIME

DYLAN SMITH: FROM BLUES TO THE BIG TIME

Dylan Smith works part-time as a doorkeeper for the FDBA and is currently studying a Bachelor of Sports Media at Holmesglen Institute.

Part of his Sports Journalism studies included forming a relationship and producing a written piece for a sporting club. Dylan Smith recently spoke to Frankston’s Ryan Broekhoff.

Ryan Broekhoff’s interview with Dylan Smith takes you through the highs and lows of what it was like growing up an underdog and how hard work and dedication helped him fulfill his long-awaited dream of playing in the NBA. 

“I was a tall, skinny, shy kid… sort of the fringe kid that no-one really took much notice of.”

Broekhoff grew up in the suburbs on the Mornington Peninsula, however, he was destined to make the NBA.

He had the talent, he had the determination, he had the ambitions, and he had the genes.

His mother Jo, and his father Wilm, played competitive basketball for the Blues in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Basketball was in his blood.

“There was definitely a family history in the Blues, I was always around [basketball] more than other sports.

“At school we’d play footy and cricket and everything else, and I enjoyed those, but I was always drawn back to basketball and it’s what seemed to come most natural,” he said.

Broekhoff set lofty goals for himself from an early age.

“My sister found something that I did in grade five about my goals… and basically all of it was to do about basketball.

“I wanted to play in the Olympics, and I wanted to play in the NBA,” he said.

It was clear that Ryan’s competitive drive existed from the moment he stepped onto the court.

Ryan described his first memories of the Frankston Basketball Stadium as a very eye-opening experience.

“I remember playing there for school competition, playing for Woodlands Primary, that’s sort of where I first started playing competitively.

“Seeing all the older kids and getting to realise how good the Frankston Blues juniors were, it was something for me to aspire to, to try and make a Blues team.”

He first played for the Blues in under 12s and was selected into the second team, however, it just took two weeks before Ryan was elevated to the first team.

His Blues career took off.

“I worked tirelessly on having the right mechanics shooting the ball and being able to handle the ball,” he said.

When asked about his best memory of being a Frankston Blue, he immediately spoke about winning the Victorian Championship in his under 16s season.

“We basically had the same team from under 12s.

“We’d been together a long time and really close friends and been through the challenges of getting thumped to then actually becoming the best team in Victoria.”

After completing his under 18s season at the Blues, he was presented the opportunity to be a part of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) basketball program.

“It’s an amazing pathway, you get surrounded by the best players and the best coaches, and all the facilities you could ever need.

“It’s pretty lucky if you get the chance to go there and just make sure you work hard and keep your head down and make the most of the time you do get there.”

It was after the AIS program that Ryan had to make a huge decision about his future.

Either stay home and try to make an NBL development squad or go overseas to play collegiate basketball.

He eventually chose the latter, which Ryan says is one of the best decisions he made for his basketball career.

“It made more sense to me at the time and something that I’m so thankful that I took the opportunity to do.

“It gave me four more years to develop physically and turn into a man and it’s really helped me along in every way.”

In the United States, Ryan played four years at Valparaiso, a college in Indiana.

He played in the Horizon League which is a 12-school collegiate athletic conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

It was here where Broekhoff earned ‘All-Horizon League First Team’ honours in his third and fourth year.

This also included winning the ‘Horizon Player of the Year’ in 2012.

It was off the back of this success where Ryan looked destined for the NBA.

However, he fell just short as he went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Despite this, he never lost sight of his goals and was determined to forge a successful career in basketball.

“There’s obviously ups and downs and tough moments, but that’s part of the fun of it.

“I don’t think there was ever time where I gave up or wanted to, it’s tough but you know if you get through this, better things are ahead,” he said.

Just months after the NBA Draft, Broekhoff put pen to paper for his first professional contract in August 2013, signing to Turkish powerhouse Beşiktaş JK Istanbul for two seasons.

Whilst playing European basketball was Broekhoff’s biggest test yet, it was in 2016 where he got to fulfil one of his lifelong goals, making the Australian Olympic squad.

“There’s nothing better to be honest, it was a real dream come true and an amazing moment and challenge – and loved every second of it.”

However, one of the memories that haunts him the most was falling short in the bronze medal match by a single point against Spain.

“It was also one of the hardest moments in my sporting career losing that bronze medal game, it’s still hard to talk about now.

“I still wouldn’t look back with any regret, but it’s always going to be there in the back of my mind how close we came.”

During this time, Broekhoff had a three-year stint in Russia which spanned from 2015-2018.

In 2018, he had a scintillating season where he averaged 12.3 points on 55 per cent shooting and 51 per cent from three-point range.

This high-calibre play allowed Broekhoff to make the ‘All-EuroCup First Team’ while playing for Lokomotiv Kuban.

His hard work and hot shooting certainly paid off when Ryan was signed by the Dallas Mavericks in August of 2018.

“[There was] Just a lot of excitement and optimism, it was always a dream of mine to play in the NBA and to get an opportunity.

“I did it the long way, spent some time over in Europe, off to college and just the way basketball is going, it very much suits my skillset.”

Being an NBA rookie was a difficult task, especially when starved of opportunity.

Broekhoff averaged just 10 minutes per game in his rookie year but made his presence felt when given the chance.

He hit 41% of his threes in the 2018/19 season, well above league average and poured in a career high 17 points against the Golden State Warriors on 75% shooting in his 34th career game.

Broekhoff’s role began to increase in his second season and was eventually called up into the starting line-up on the 31st of January.

“I was pretty nervous to be honest, it had been a year and a half on the roster before I got the chance to start.

“[I was] a little gassed in the first two minutes because of those nerves but settled in and enjoyed the challenge of having to play against [James] Harden and [Russell] Westbrook.”

When reflecting on his favourite memory from that game, it wasn’t knocking down three shots from downtown, it was his defensive work.

“I blocked Harden, so make sure to get on YouTube and watch that.

“I just remember I blocked Harden, so I’ll be saving that story to tell my kids one day.”

Unfortunately, Ryan was waived by the Mavericks in February and was left to try and search for a new team.

The sharpshooter eventually struck a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers in June, during the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus.

Ryan was set to be paired alongside Australian star Ben Simmons, however Broekhoff’s wife returned a positive test for the COVID-19 virus, which required him to put family first and not participate in the NBA restart in Orlando.

It is uncertain what awaits Broekhoff in terms of his future in the NBA.

“The free agency period hasn’t been established by the NBA yet so I’m just sort of waiting around, working out and seeing what opportunities may arise,” he said.

The “tall, skinny, shy kid” from the Frankston Blues has had the basketball career many could only dream of.

Broekhoff’s hard work and perseverance ensured he eventually reached his goals of becoming an Australian Olympian and NBA sharpshooter.

Despite finding a home in Texas with wife Katie, he didn’t rule out a change of scenery by career’s end.

“Probably when I’m a little bit older and if we settle back in Australia then I may have to put on the Blues jersey one time,” he said.