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Talented Enigma Ricky Ledo Getting His Chance With Knicks

Ledo declared for the 2013 draft without having played a single minute of college basketball.

Ricky Ledo #11 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls on March 28, 2015 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Ledo #11 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls on March 28, 2015 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)


A few years ago Ricky Ledo was a hot commodity coming out of high school, a top-25 prospect recruited by the likes of Kentucky, Florida, UCLA, Arizona and Syracuse. He averaged 23.4 points and 6.2 rebounds his senior year at South Kent School in Connecticut and was named a McDonald’s All-American. He committed to play for Providence College, in his home-state of Rhode Island. However, he was ruled only partially eligible by the NCAA, meaning he could practice with the Friars, but not travel with the team or play in any game, which had to do with bouncing around to four high schools in five years and not having enough credits to meet academic standards for eligibility.

“All you do is want to play. When you can’t play, all you can do is practice,” said Ledo, whose Friars team went 19-15 and made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT without him. “Practice is cool because you’re playing basketball, but it’s still not the game and what you go out there for.”

Ledo grew up amid drugs and violence in Providence’s West End. He had seen his father get shot when he was just a kid. His brother spent time in jail for gun possession and he had a surrogate uncle who had been shot and killed on a Providence street. He was eventually raised by his grandparents and this was some of the baggage that Ledo brought with him as he went from Hendricken, to St. Andrew’s, where he teamed with Michael-Carter Williams, to the South Kent School in Connecticut, to Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, and then to Providence College in the summer of 2012.

Instead of sticking around for another year to help boost his draft stock, Ledo declared for the 2013 draft without having played a single minute of college basketball. He expected to be a first-round pick, but he was instead picked in the second to the Milwaukee Bucks as the 43rd overall pick. He was then traded twice by the end of the draft, to Philadelphia and on to Dallas, with whom he agreed to a four-year, $3.32 million deal. But unlike many of the preps-to-pros players of the generation that preceded the league’s current rule that prohibits making the jump directly from high school to the NBA, Ledo didn’t play organized basketball for a year and a half.

Not surprisingly, he spent most of his time with the win-now Mavericks playing for the Mavs’ D-League team, the Texas Legends. As a rookie, he shuttled six times between the Mavericks and the Legends, playing only 33 minutes in the NBA and logging significantly more time in 39 games with the Legends. After averaging 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season for Legends coach Eduardo Najera, Ledo thought he could be primed for a bigger role with Rick Carlisle’s team this season.

“It was definitely helpful my first year,” Ledo told me about his time spent playing in the D-League. “I thought this year I was ready early in the year to step in and get experience and a role on the team, but it didn’t happen.”

The Mavericks thought otherwise and felt that he needed more work in the D-League before being NBA-ready.  Ledo was allowed to be The Man for the Legends, but he couldn’t be The Man for the Mavericks — not with Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons around. In 26 games with the Legends this season, he averaged 16.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 44.6% from the field. But a few weeks ago he was released to make room for (ironically) Amar’e Stoudemire, who was waived by the Knicks. His Maverick tenure ended after making only 16 cameo appearances over the last two years, totaling a mere 44 minutes. Not exactly what he had envisioned.

“When you think you’re doing everything right and think you’re on your way to the coach’s lineup and it doesn’t happen, it’s tough,” said Ledo, who never considered himself an NBA Developmental League player.

Knicks president Phil Jackson apparently didn’t see Ledo as a D-League player either and gave him a 10-day contract three weeks ago to fill out Stoudemire’s a roster spot that had been open since All-Star Weekend. During his first ten day stint in the Big Apple, Ledo averaged 7.2 points on 35.9% shooting, 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists and 2.6 turnovers in over 18.5 minutes.  He was rewarded with a second 10-day pact last Sunday and he has shown some flashes that he can be an effective player on this level.

Before joining New York, Ledo’s career high was five points. Now, he’s hit double figures in four of his last six games, including a career night in Washington this past Friday, where he scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists. While Ledo is still a work in progress, there are plenty of reasons for optimism. He’s got great size for a shooting guard, the ability to create his own shot and all the physical tools are there. The biggest hurdles in front of him are improving his jump shot and becoming more consistent overall, both of which should be correctable.

Earlier today the Knicks announced that they will be signing Ledo for the remainder of the season. Even though he remains an extreme long shot to make next year’s Knicks team, he will have five more games to prove to Jackson that he is worthy of continued interest and perhaps he may get a spot on the Knicks’ Summer League squad. The youngster may lack game experience, but he does not lack for confidence and he has played only 89 games of organized basketball in the three years since leaving high school. At 22, he just needs to play — and the Knicks can give Ledo the minutes the Mavericks could not.

“Just prove that I can run the offense and prove that I just can be a valuable player to the organization.”

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