In 2010, the San Antonio Spurs drafted Ryan Richards as the 49th overall pick hoping to address some depth on their frontcourt rotation and perhaps in preparation for the post Tim Duncan era.
However, he spent the majority of his first year in San Antonio on the sidelines recovering from two operations to repair a shoulder injury.
Since then, Richards had made some significant progress.
He recently helped the GB U20s to a 13th place finish in the European Under-20 Championships in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he averaged 22.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
His performance with GB U20s squad eventually earned him a call up from the Great Britain senior squad.
If that wasn’t enough, Richards made it to the national team’s initial cut and is confident of making the team when the squad is trimmed from 15 to 12 for the EuroBasket finals in Lithuania later this month.
But based on how the rotation played out in the recently concluded London Invitational, Richards’ chances of making it to the final 12 appears to be dim.
He didn’t get any significant playing time in all five games against other national teams that includes France, Australia, Croatia, Serbia and China.
Nonetheless, the young big man who played as a junior for the Canterbury-based Kent Crusaders remains optimistic.
“Playing in the Olympics is one of my main career goals and to do it not far from where I grew up would be fantastic.”
He is hoping that his strong performance for the national team will be viewed as a welcome sign in San Antonio.
The 7-foot forward is expecting to spend at least the first part of next season on a team club in Europe, and is eager to prove himself at the highest level as quickly as possible.
He said: “I’ve spent most of my time since moving to San Antonio in rehab, getting healthy and learning about the game. It was a tough season but I’m enjoying being part of one of the best franchises in basketball.
“Coming from Sittingbourne to where I am now I’m just grateful really. I have my friends and my mom to keep me grounded and humble.
“I’ll probably be coming back to Europe to start with next season to prove myself. I just want to show I have what it takes to help the Spurs win.”
There were reports that a contact between the San Antonio Spurs and ACB’s Gran Canaria has been made to resolve Richards’ contract situation.
Richards is currently under contract with Gran Canaria until the end of the 2011-12 season and will need a buyout from San Antonio to allow him to play for either their D-league team, Austin Toros or be included on the Spurs’ roster.