Bob Ryker is happy to be selling cars following his time as a student at Vincennes University, but spending time on the court with the Vincennes Women’s Basketball team would be the icing on the cake.
The 2017 North Montgomery graduate had no plan to get into coaching, but after a two-year stint as a student manager, Ryker accepted a role as an assistant coach for the program. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered the dynamic of the team.
Most recently the National Junior College Athletic Association announced an indefinite cancellation of sports, not opening the door for a return until January of 2021. That coupled with the last four months of social distancing, recruiting has been the toughest challenge for the Trailblazers.
“We couldn’t have girls on campus and we couldn’t go out and recruit,” Ryker, who sells new cars for Memering Motorplex in Vincennes, said. “We were basically doing all of our recruiting over the phone and over text messages. Sending videos of the campus and pictures. It was tough, because you really want to bring the girls in so they can see where they are going to be playing at and where they’re going to be living.”
To make matters worse, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced an academic waiver in late May that allows student athletes to gain eligibility with a GPA as low as 2.0. Normally junior college programs like Vincennes will target Division I talent that fall short on the academic side.
Ryker says Vincennes stands out among other programs because of its facilities.
“We have top-notch facilities,” he said. “We have better facilities than a lot of your low-major to mid-major Division I. We have a huge arena with a jumbo screen and All-Americans all over our wall.”
The Trailblazers are led by hall of fame coach Harry Meeks, who has amassed over 600 wins in 29 seasons, leading Vincennes to a number of NJCAA tournament berths, including the 2010 team led by North Montgomery grad Ashley Buis, who went on to play at Division I programs Oregon and Stetson.
While Ryker’s route to coaching was unconventional, he’s glad he landed where he did.
“I never really planned on getting into coaching,” he said. “I just had this opportunity kind of fall in my lap. I was in class with one of the players and she said ‘you should be a manager,’ and I told her no and she goes ‘no you really should.’ I had been coming home every weekend since I started college and obviously needed to get involved.”
Now Ryker and the current and future Lady Trailblazers have to sit and wait for January before they can return to the court, but they’ll be ready.
“We have just told them to stay positive, and to keep their head up,” Ryker said. “We still expect them to be here in August (school starts Aug. 17). They’re all ready to go, and they’re excited. They’re just ready to get back on the court.”