The UC Davis men’s basketball team has been putting up a lot of points on the board this year, but have struggled a bit with consistency.
One of the Aggie players who has been a backbone for UC Davis is junior Ryan Sypkens.
The Elk Grove, Calif. native sat out last season with an injury, but came back more determined than ever, having already broken the UC Davis single-season and career records for three-pointers, still with several games left in the season.
With more scoring to come, Sypkens has emerged as a present and future leader for UC Davis. He recently sat down with Aggie Sports Writer Kim Carr to discuss his life as a psychology major, what it’s like to be back on the team after sitting out last year and the dynamics of the revamped Aggies’ lineup.
So let’s start from the beginning. What made you come to UC Davis?
Well, when I was getting recruited they made me feel like I was a top priority, which is something I was really drawn to. I wanted to come to a school that made me feel like a top concern. Also, it’s pretty close to home, but far enough away. But it’s still pretty easy for my parents to come watch me play. Mostly though, I wanted to come get a degree from UC Davis. It’s a great school to get an education from.
Since you’re a local kid, is your family able to make it to every game?
Yeah, my family comes to pretty much every game. We also have a lot of conference teams in Southern California and my grandparents live down there so my whole family comes to the games down there. My whole family is at almost every game, except when work gets in the way.
Do you have any interest in the field of sports psychology?
Well first I have aspirations to play in the NBA and then I would like to become a coach. I definitely want to use it for something with basketball.
[Sports psychology is] definitely a possibility. I feel like I want to see what avenues open up in my life and if I find something I want to do I’m going to do [it]. I mean, you never know. I might end up back here someday so I can get my master’s degree but first I want to play basketball for as long as I can. Once I’m done with that, though, I’ll see what happens.
Do you have a dream team that you would love to play for in the NBA?
Not really. Whoever wants to pay me, really. I want to look into the NBA but I would also love to go to Europe and travel the world as well.
So you guys went to play in Europe this summer and J.T. Adenrele said that really influenced your development as a team. What do you think you guys improved the most over there?
I think over there we had a lot of good guys on our team and to experience something like that together — it really brought everyone a lot closer. It taught us all how to trust each other. None of us had really played with each other before so having that was a chance to get some games under our belt before we started getting into structured practices.
So you missed last season due to injury. You’ve always been hot-handed from the three-point line but this year you just blitzed past records. How were you working during your injury to end up with these kinds of results?
Honestly, when I was injured I did everything I could but for a long time I couldn’t walk. So I would sit in a chair under the hoop and just shoot over and over and really work on form shooting. I would lift a lot of weights and got stronger. Once I was able to start walking I would hit the gym every day for weights and shooting. I did absolutely everything that my knee allowed me to do. It was really a rough time because having knee surgery is not fun. My leg was in a cast for about three months so when I took the cast off there was no muscle left in my leg. I had to basically rebuild my leg from scratch and even now it’s not back to the point that it used to be.
So when you can’t play basketball for a year, what were your other hobbies?
I love music. I’m learning to play bass guitar and I just love listening to music. It’s mostly all around music. I write a little bit of poetry too though.
Bozner also writes poetry, right? Have you read any of his stuff?
Yeah. It’s mostly funny poetry but it’s pretty good.
So how does it feel to come back from an injury and break these three-point records?
You know, it really feels good. I’ve always believed that hard work pays off. I’ve always been kind of a late bloomer. I’ve always felt like a little bit behind where I want to be, and I’ve always just been like, ‘Man, I want to get better, I want to be better.’ It finally feels like it’s paying off for me. I’m going to keep pushing and hopefully keep getting better.
All right, let’s talk some non-basketball stuff for a minute. What are your favorite movies, favorite bands, etc.?
My favorite movie is probably a tie between my top three. Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds.
I’m sensing a theme here.
[Laughs] Yeah, I like Quentin Tarantino a lot. Honestly, those three — it’s hard to say. I guess my favorite right now would be Django Unchained though.
All right, so how about music?
I listen to a lot of reggae. Bob Marley is my absolute favorite musician ever. I listen to all types of music though. Even a little country but everything from rap to blues to jazz. I still listen to a lot of blues actually.
So I’ve asked almost every single guy about the Aggie Pack and the Band-uh! but most of them seem to be so focused on the game, they don’t notice the crowd. How do you think our home crowd stacks up against the other teams’ in conference?
Honestly, I think our student fans are some of the best in the conference for sure. Long Beach and Hawai’i have good crowds but our student Aggie Pack is really good.
So do you actually hear them when you’re playing or do you totally tune them out?
Yeah, I can hear them but at the same time when the game is going you’re just focused on what’s happening on the floor. You do notice it when we hit a big shot, or make a big play — they go absolutely crazy and it helps to have that energy. It’s something we can build on.
Obviously you weren’t playing, but this team went 3-13 last year. Considering that, did you expect this team to be where it’s at today?
Honestly, I thought we had a chance to be a pretty good team this year. I could see the talent we had on our team and the talent we had coming in and I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got some good players on our team this year.’ Starting out the season [how] we started out was honestly really disappointing. I thought we were a lot better than that but I think a lot of those struggles stemmed from the fact that we hadn’t really played together that much. Our timing and our camaraderie wasn’t quite there and we weren’t quite clicking. As the year has gone on, I feel like we’re playing pretty well now and we have a chance to do something good. Next year, I think we’re going to be a really great team.
What are you hoping for for next year’s team?
You know, we have to keep what we have going. All of our guys are coming back except for Howley and Paolo so we need to keep it going. We’re going to add in Avery Johnson, Darius Graham, and those are great players. You know Darius, he got hurt early this season but the minutes he did play were really impressive for a freshman.
— Kim Carr