BOZICH | Louisville recruit Ryan McMahon knows what skeptics are - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville recruit Ryan McMahon knows what skeptics are saying

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ryan McMahon knows the first thing you're going to say when you see him bounce onto the court for the Derby Festival Classic at Freedom Hall Saturday night.

The same thing the recruiting gurus in Florida said when they failed to rank McMahon among the top 100 high school seniors in Florida last fall.

The same thing several Division I college coaches told McMahon even after ESPN analyst Dick Vitale encouraged them to give McMahon a serious look in January.

The same thing a few coaches told me when they learned that University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino offered McMahon the fourth scholarship in the Cards' class of 2015.

“They'll say, ‘You don't really pass the look test,' “ McMahon said “I'm not super big. I'm not super athletic.”

Here is the best way I can explain it: Ryan McMahon makes David Levitch look like Frank Kaminsky.

Sorry, that's an exaggeration. Ryan McMahon makes David Levitch look like Sam Dekker.

Just between friends, Ryan, how tall are you?

“With shoes?” McMahon asked.

Let's start without the pair of sneakers you'll wear Saturday night?

“Without shoes, 5-11 or 6 feet,” he said.

With sneakers?

“With shoes, I'm 6-1, 6-feet about 160 pounds,” McMahon said.

Now you understand why the eyes of all University of Louisville fans will be on McMahon when he performs on the same squad with three other U of L recruits – Raymond Spalding, Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel – in the Derby Classic. (The game will be shown live on WMYO and live-steamed at WDRB.com at 7 p.m.)

If this works, it's going to become some story because McMahon is a bright (4.32 grade point average), enthusiastic kid who can't wait to show skeptics that he belongs in this game and in this program.

He's been showing them since he started playing at Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, Fla., although it is reasonable to remember that Pitino is going to be asking McMahon to defend full-sized Atlantic Coast Conference guards.

“Now that I'm here, I do feel like I belong here,” McMahon said. “It didn't happen by some lucky chance. I worked hard to put myself in the position to have this opportunity.

“I didn't bother me (that he was ignored by the recruiting services). It just showed me the invalidity of those recruiting web sites. I got a chuckle out of it. Now I'm going to one of the top programs in the nation.”

When you talk to McMahon, it becomes less of an interview and more of a rousing conversation. He understands his story is only several degrees away from “Rudy.” That is appropriate because McMahon grew up cheering for Notre Dame with encouragement from his father, who attended high school in South Bend, Ind., before moving to Sarasota, Fla.

The Sarasota and Notre Dame connections are important. ESPN analyst Dick Vitale lives in the Sarasota area as do his two daughters, who are Notre Dame graduates.

Last December Vitale attended a high school basketball tournament on the Florida Gulf Coast. He was there to watch Antonio Blakeney – the same Antonio Blakeney who de-committed from Louisville and later signed with Louisiana State. The same Antonio Blakeney who is ranked as one of the Top 25 prospects in the nation.

Blakeney scored 37 points. Playing for the opposing team, McMahon scored 26, even though he was limited to 2 ½ quarters by foul trouble.

Vitale was hooked.

Quietly, or at least as quietly as Vitale can do anything in public, Vitale returned to watch McMahon play. Once. Twice. Three or four times.

McMahon had a new friend. Vitale had a cause – finding a Division I scholarship for Ryan McMahon.

He called Roy Williams of North Carolina, Bo Ryan of Wisconsin and Bob McKillop of Davidson. Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt was alerted. So was Bryce Drew of Valparaiso.

As well as Rick Pitino.

Pitino dispatched assistant coach Mike Balado to Florida. McMahon performed. Pitino made the next trip. McMahon performed again. Pitino and his staff made one more trip to the Florida Gulf Coast. Bingo.

I asked Ryan McMahon what he would have said if I had told him before the season that Louisville would offer a scholarship.

“I would have said, ‘Stop messing with me,' “ McMahon said.

Louisville offered a scholarship. McMahon accepted. Organizers of the Derby Classic immediately wanted him, too. Averaging more than 26 points per game, McMahon finished his high school season by leading Cardinal Mooney to the Class 3A state semifinals.

The world will be watching McMahon to see if they see what Pitino said he saw: A determined kid with a chip on his shoulder who plays like Mark Price, the former Georgia Tech all-American who later scored nearly 11,000 points in the NBA over a dozen seasons.

Mark Price, you guessed it, stood 6 feet and weight 170 pounds.

McMahon, you guessed it, has started to study Mark Price videos on YouTube.

What is McMahon going to show people Saturday?

“I'm going to show them Ryan McMahon's game,” he said.

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