by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer
The last time Ricky Ledo played an organized basketball game that actually mattered was in 2012 as a member of the South Kent Prep Cardinal, back when he was a budding high schooler. Now Ledo is a 2013 NBA Draft Prospect who could be taken in the first round, but the kid who was breaking ankles and embarrassing some of the top prep ballers in the nation just one year ago didn’t even play a second for Providence in ’12-13.
During his prep school days, Ledo drew many comparisons to OJ Mayo while being highly ranked across the interwebs. He was ranked the No. 5 shooting guard and No. 17 overall prospect by Scout.com, the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 6 overall prospect according to Rivals.com, the No. 6 shooting guard and No. 21 overall prospect by ESPN.com. His last public appearance on the hardwood came during an impressive showing at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic after being named a Jordan All-American.
But in September, Ledo learned his decorated prep school career ultimately plagued his college playing days. After an issue with a transfer credit, says Ledo, he was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which prohibited him playing for his hometown Friars but allowed him to practice.
The sentence was better than anticipated for Ledo and the Providence coaching staff. The fact that Ledo played at four different high schools in five years—he attended St. Andrew’s Prep in Rhode Island along with South Kent and three others—initially put his practicing eligibility in jeopardy as well.
“I passed my SATs and ACTs—it was a mix-up from high school,” Ledo explains today. “In college I had a 3.2 GPA. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work, it was just a messy situational transfer.”
His academic proficiency this year at Providence is another indication of his ever-developing maturity, which was heavily in question back in his prep days. That’s an area in which Ledo says Sout Kent helped him grow.
“I learned a lot of life skills out there just being away from home,” Ledo recalls. “You just learn and grow, you have the opportunity to get better as a man and a basketball player. On the court, I just had the ball in my hands and helped me become the player that I am today.”
Kelvin Jefferson, a former Division I coach and now longtime head man of the Cardinal, is the last coach to troll the sidelines of a game Ledo participated in. Jefferson has fond memories of Ledo in the school’s red and black. “We’ve had a lot of guys here, and I’ve coached a lot of guys that have gone on to big colleges,” says Jefferson. “He’s a guys that had five or six games here that left you saying, ‘We just witnessed something special.’ He’s a big-time player.”
For Ledo’s last two years of prep ball, Jefferson had a front row ticket to Ledo’s surgical drives and crafty play-making.
“He’s got great size, he’s got good athleticism, good ball skills and puts the ball in the basketball in any way you like,” Jefferson says. “He’s so good at scoring that it sometimes forces people to overlook how well he passes it, that he can handle the ball like a point guard. When it’s time to play, there’s nobody else you want on your team more.”
Yet the best facet of Ledo’s game might be his mental game.
“When I sat out, I realized a lot, I realized how much basketball really meant to me,” Ledo says. “I realized how important timing is and just seeing everything on the court in front of you. It was a good experience for me and helped me a lot in terms of learning the game more.”
Providence would go on to a decent 19-15 overall record this season, including an even 9-9 run through the Big East en route to an NIT birth. In April, after Baylor ended the Friars’ season in the quarterfinals, Ledo continued to reflect on his basketball prospects and decided that his best career move would be to forgo his would-be redshirt freshman in ’13-14 and enter the NBA Draft.
Scouts have been very interested in Ledo ever since he declared. He’s worked out for more than half of the League since the Draft Combine in Chicago, where he interviewed with 13 teams.
His workout tour has taken him all across the country, but now he’s just looking forward to finding out what team will select him on June 27. “I can’t wait to find out where I’m gonna be where I get drafted,” Ledo says. “It’s a really exciting time in my life and I can’t wait for my dream to come true.
So, despite his hiatus from the public eye on the court, Ledo could be back on the court in just a matter of time, wowing crowds like he did back in prep school.