Big V MVP joins the Sydney Kings

21.06.2011

by Matt McQuade @ www.nbl.com.au

The Sydney Kings announced today the signing of 201cm (6’ 7”) forward Kevin Ratzsch from Northern State University to fill one import slot for the forthcoming 2011-2012 National Basketball League season.

Kevin, who turns 25 next week, has had an interesting career with stops in Ireland, Spain and in the Australian Big V competition with the Ringwood Hawks, but he first came to the attention of basketball fans Down Under when he played in the inaugural High Stakes Hoops classic in Adelaide a couple of years ago.

He had a stellar tournament with good judges like Steve Carfino and John Rillie raving about his play, and helped his team make the final after a 24 point, 18 rebound performance in the semi-final – preserving his team’s victory by blocking a shot at the buzzer.

Showing tremendous commitment and a great competitive spirit, he came to Sydney to try out for the Kings prior to last season – coming straight off back to back games for Ringwood in Victoria before flying straight up the next day and going right into an intense scrimmage despite being obviously fatigued.

His performance convinced Sydney Kings’ Head Coach Ian ‘Moose’ Robilliard that Kevin was the man for his program, but the organisation decided to go in a different direction and selected Rod Grizzard instead.

‘Moose’ is happy the team got a second chance to bring the athletic left-hander on board.

“Kevin is one of those guys who is the epitome of what being a team player is all about. He’s completely selfless, a great competitor, and he makes other people around him better players."

“The bonus is he is very athletic, he has outstanding range on his jumper and he’s an excellent defender as well. He’ll play mainly at the three spot for us, but he’s versatile enough to play power forward at times. I think he’s a terrific addition to the squad.”

However, despite possessing undoubted talent, Kevin Ratzsch is someone who, for whatever reason, has been consistently overlooked for much of his career.

In high school at Bloomington, Illinois, he was team captain and made several conference and All-Star teams. He did not, however, receive much interest from NCAA Division One schools; eventually going to Northern State in one of the best NCAA Division Two conferences in the United States.  

At Northern State, Kevin excelled. Playing for the legendary Don Meyer, who has won the most games in the history of NCAA men’s college basketball, he had a brilliant four-year career in college, leading the team in scoring as a sophomore, junior and senior.

He was named his conference’s Player of the Year in his final campaign, averaging 21 points and over seven rebounds per game, including a couple of memorable performances against Division One powerhouses University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and Purdue University Boilermakers.  

Even more impressively, he was able to accomplish a great deal as a senior at Northern State despite facing extreme adversity. Coach Meyer was involved in a terrible car accident where he fell asleep at the wheel and was hit by a semi-trailer – Kevin witnessed the accident in a car following behind.  

During five hours of surgery, the doctors found Coach Meyer’s body to be riddled with inoperable cancer, and while he was able to eventually recover and finish coaching the team that year, after a three-month layoff, the situation took an immense toll on Kevin and his teammates.

The team managed to finish with a solid 22-9 record and made an appearance in the NCAA Division Two national tournament. It is an enormous credit to Kevin’s character that he was able to persevere and thrive, despite going through such an emotional roller coaster.  

Coach Meyer’s absence meant that he was unable to act on Kevin’s behalf in terms of getting him noticed by NBA scouts, so in 2009 he headed to Ireland to play for Belfast in the Ireland SuperLeague, where he was a dominant force, averaging 30.4ppg, 12.9rpg and 4.4apg while shooting an impressive 64% from the field and 44% from three point range.

For his efforts, he was named league Most Valuable Player and was named in the Eurobasket.com All Imports Team.  

He played for Ringwood in the powerful Big V competition in 2010, averaging 19.7ppg and 12.1rpg while shooting 58 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free throw line as he led the Hawks to the Big V championship game.

After his appearance at the High Stakes Hoops tournament and his tryout for the Kings, he managed to secure a spot in the second division of the Spanish League where he impressed yet again.

Playing for Ovideo, he produced an excellent season, averaging 15 points and six rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field, and was in the running for that league’s MVP award before being slowed by a late season thigh injury.  

Sydney Kings’ assistant coach Tim Hudson believes the team has gotten very lucky in securing Kevin for the upcoming season.  

“Kevin has shown to be a man of great character who is also a heck of a basketball player,” Tim said.  

“He’s the kind of guy who could score 30 points a game if he wanted to, but he much prefers getting his teammates involved and doing whatever it takes – offensively and defensively – to help his ballclub win.”  

“When I worked him out I was completely blown away. He’s a phenomenal talent who can score from anywhere, he’s an excellent defender, he crashes the boards, can handle the ball and put it on the floor, and he possesses all those great intangibles – he’s unselfish, he does all the little things you need and isn’t interested about padding his stats. He’s all about winning, full stop.”  

“He’s also a guy capable of some highlight reel plays, and I have no doubt he’ll be someone who’ll provide great entertainment at the Kingdome this season.”  

Those interested in comparisons will find that Kevin is very similar to a former NBL standout, Mike Kelly, who had an excellent career playing for the South East Melbourne Magic, Townsville Crocodiles and Wollongong Hawks among others.

Like Kelly, Kevin is a highly intelligent, hard-working and tough competitor who will do whatever it takes to help his team win.  

Kevin Ratzsch is an outstanding addition to the Sydney Kings, and you had better believe he will represent the purple and gold with great pride in the 2011-2012 NBL season.  

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