There was no celebration when Anchorage basketball player Ryden Hines of Iona College was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week. He did what he always does.
He went to the gym.
Working on his game helped Hines reach the highest peak of his basketball career, and he wasn’t about to let up now.
“I’ve been here since May and every single day, nonstop, you’re in the gym or lifting weights,” Hines said. “Stick with what’s working.”
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward earned weekly honors in the conference after his career-high 19-point performance against Northern Iowa, a marked improvement from the 17 points he scored in his first seven games.
This was the first time Hines was in the starting five, a reward from the Iona coaches for his patience, perseverance and practice habits. He responded with the game of his life.
“One of the guys in front of me got hurt and that opened up an opportunity that just made me work that much harder,” he said. “I got my shot and I played with confidence. It feels great for that hard work to pay off. But I know I got to work even harder because I don’t want to lose my spot.”
There is a fine line between wanting your teammate to come back from injury while also wanting to keep a starting spot, but Hines has taken a strictly business approach.
“The thing about college basketball, especially at Division I, is that everyone is coming from where they were one of the best players on their high school team and they all get on one team and they all want to start,” Hines said.
“It boils down to who wants it more, who works the hardest. If you take someone’s spot it just means you’re outworking them and it helps out the team as well because if everybody is working hard it’s just going to make the team better.”
The reality is that both players will likely start, Hines said, because they complement each other with an inside-outside combination and present matchup problems for opponents.
Hines, a graduate of Anchorage’s Dimond High, is a pick-and-pop big man with a soft midrange jumper. He has made 14 of 19 field goal attempts so far this season.
“It’s pretty hard to score in the paint at this level, so I worked on my shot. It’s been coming along,” he said. “We have the big kid that plays with me, and he’s such a good player inside the paint, so if I hit jumpers it will draw the other big guy out of the way to give him even more room to work.”
Regardless who is on the court with him, Hines will be ready when his name is called.
“I just gotta keep playing well,” he said. “That’s what they expect. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman. If you’re starting, they expect you to produce.”
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.