By Wes Kerr
Ryle Owens was doubted at every step of his basketball journey. He didn’t have a single offer after his high school career. In fact, he rode the bench up until his senior season.
But that didn’t stop this determined young man from reaching his childhood dream: becoming a professional basketball player.
There was little reason to believe Owens would have a chance at making it big after his time at Beaufort High. Primarily a spot-up shooter off the bench, he saw very little time at the varsity level and failed to attract the attention of college scouts.
His minutes started to ramp up as his senior year tipped off, but adversity quickly struck again. Owens began to experience serious knee pain, denying the Eagle from fulfilling his full potential on the court. The future of his basketball career was suddenly shrouded in doubt.
There’s no guarantee that even the most talented athletes recover from knee surgery, and Owens needed work done on both knees, sidelining the unproven player for more than a year. He was bed-ridden for months, wondering if he would ever get the opportunity to chase his dreams again. But he refused to give up on the goals he had set as a young child.
A former coach gave him a contact at USC Salkehatchie, and Owens put everything he had into what could very well be his last shot. After redshirting a year due to the surgery, the former Beaufort Eagle stepped back onto the court and poured his heart into every practice and every possession.
The climb back into action was like scaling the steepest mountain on the planet. Not only did he have to recover and find his own game again, but he also had to elevate it further against a new level of competition.
He rode the bench again initially, waiting for that opportunity to show his teammates, coaches, and scouts what he could do. During his lengthy, 18-month recovery, one refrain kept echoing through his head.
“Wait until I get healthy. Wait until I get healthy.”
Ryle was right.
After showing off in his tiny seven-game stint at USC Salkehatchie, Owens went back to the Lowco and enlisted the help of now-Beaufort Academy coach Nick Field. Field was blown away by Owens’ athleticism, shooting ability, and most of all his work ethic.
With Field’s help combined with an inspirational drive to push his game forward day in and day out, Owens landed a spot at Young Harris College in Georgia.
It was a small Division II school with limited notoriety, but Owens knew that he would seize the opportunity. Head coach Jeremy Currier took a chance on the kid from Beaufort, and a determined Owens became a star for the Mountain Lions.
Fitting the team’s high-tempo offense brilliantly, he became a reliable shooter and an explosive ball-handler with the hops and quickness to thrive all around the court. In his senior season at Young Harris, Owens drained 74 three-pointers and became a valuable leader to his team. As his college career came to a close, he was itching to take his blossoming game even further.
With the help of Field, Owens came in contact with agents across the globe in hopes of earning that elusive first pro deal. But the COVID-19 pandemic put seemingly all basketball leagues on pause in 2020, halting Owens’ hopes for the foreseeable future. Most people in his shoes would call it quits and look to begin a new chapter.
Not Ryle Owens.
He committed himself to any opportunity he could snag to work out, improve his skills, and raise his stock when others were sitting on the sidelines. He worked out with an NBA trainer in Virginia, learning valuable insight from a resource at the top of the sport’s hierarchy. Then, he came back home again to coach and mentor a group of young and talented players, just like he was a few years earlier.
The experience was invaluable. Not only did he make an impact on so many in his own community, he used the time to pick up on what he needed to fix in his own game.
When leagues and showcases returned across the country and the globe, Owens was ready to put what he had learned into action. Thanks to Field, H2bball founder Rob Benson, and up-and-coming trainer Casser Middleton, the path was paved for Owens to reach what he had been eyeing since the first time he stepped foot in a gym. He traveled to showcases across the country, proving to the basketball world what he knew all along. And then, 18 months after his college career came to a close, TSU Tbilisi in the former Soviet republic of Georgia came calling. The dream was now a reality.
A kid from the little town of Port Royal, S.C., who was confined to the bench in high school, is now on his way to play pro basketball in Europe. He had no business making it this far in his hoops career.
But with every piece of adversity thrown his way, he used his unending determination, the amazing mentors in his corner, and his faith to defy the odds.
The professional career of Ryle Owens is about to lift off, and we can’t wait to see him rep the Lowco.
Wes Kerr is a graduate of Hilton Head Island High School and Davidson College. He reports on local sports for LowcoSports.com and is co-host of the LowcoSports Lowdown and Lowco Pigskin Podcast.
Above: Beaufort High grad Ryle Owens (3) made a name for himself playing for tiny Young Harris College in north Georgia. Submitted photo.