words Ryan Jones | portraits Tom Medvedich
Ricardo Ledo was only ever going to go to Providence. That would be a safe assumption, anyway, for a player born and raised in the Renaissance City, a kid who says that the thought of playing college ball in his hometown is “one of my biggest joys.” The fact that he committed to the Friars midway through his junior season seemed like confirmation of the inevitable.
And it was, until he de-committed.
It’s been a hectic few years for Ledo—you can call him Ricky—who has switched high schools at an almost Amar’e-esque rate, and who did indeed reconsider his Providence commitment before ultimately reconsidering his reconsideration (if that makes sense). But catching up with Ledo this winter, we find a dude who seems at ease with his past, present and future. Especially the future.
“Right now, I just feel relaxed with this whole recruiting process over and knowing where I’m going,” he says “I had to see what else was out there, but staying home felt like the right choice.”
Ledo is on the phone from Connecticut, where he’s wrapping up his senior season at South Kent School, the New England prep school where Andray Blatche, Dorell Wright and Isaiah Thomas all put in post-grad work. The 6-6, 195-pound wing is one of the nation’s best shooting guards, and along with fellow signee and top-30 point man Kris Dunn, he’ll give the Friars what is arguably the best freshman backcourt in the nation next year. “I like pressure, and I’m ready to deal with it,” Ledo says. “I feel like me and Kris have a good chance to bring Providence back to the top. They’ve never really had two guys at such a high level coming in at the same time. It’s going to be a good thing.”
The chance to help the Friars regain an elusive place among the nation’s elite is certainly motivation for Ledo, as well as for the program’s new coach, Ed Cooley. These two have much in common: Cooley, a Providence native, was a high school star himself back in the late ’80s, and he was hired by the Friars in part because of his passion for the city and its hoops scene. In fact, Ledo remembers Cooley, then an assistant at Boston College, showing up during his elementary school gym classes seven or eight years ago to give pep talks to the next generation.
Skeptics will whisper that Ledo will need more than pep talks next season, pointing to his nomadic high school career—he’s had five stints at four schools, and reclassified once—and the impression that his emotional maturity may never catch up to his athletic maturity. Ledo downplays all that, and certainly, nobody has questioned his talent. He’s a versatile and explosive scorer who finds inspiration in the good-luck-stopping-me skill sets of Kobe, Kevin Durant and in-his-prime Tracy McGrady. “I remember watching him and Kobe’s matchups when I was younger,” Ledo says. “I still go on YouTube to watch McGrady.”
We don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for Providence fans, but if Ledo continues to develop his range and his handles—and if he keeps his head straight—they’ll have plenty to cheer next season. Of course, this being Providence, those fans would be cheering anyway. Those are Ricky’s people, after all. “Every home game, I’ll probably have between 20 and 30 people there, and that’s just close friends and family,” he says. “I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like with all the people I know in Providence.”