In the world of the “information superhighway,” everyone with a keyboard, an internet connection and the ability to spell Wikipedia or YouTube, or at least get it within a few letters, can find information, trivial or otherwise, that they’re looking for in an instant. Everyone, with the touch of a button — or is that a screen now — can feel as if they’re an expert on any subject.
The problem is, in a world where everything is available in an instant, there is still no substitute for actual, real-world experience. Enter Ryan McDonough.
Although only beginning his first season as the man holding the reigns of an NBA basketball operations department, McDonough is no stranger to hard work and even harder scouting of the most obscure talent. For years he has scoured the globe gaining first-hand knowledge of players starting at a young age.
One of those people he saw while globetrotting was the newest member of the Phoenix Suns, Alex Len, long before his name was called by Commissioner Stern during Thursday night’s NBA Draft, or even before he put on a Maryland No. 25 jersey. As a matter of fact, he saw him only four years after Len began playing basketball.
“I was in Vilnius, Lithuania for the Under 18 European championships in the summer of 2010,” McDonough said. “The gym was about 117 degrees. There were 32 people there. I didn’t know Alex. He was a year young. He was 17-years old playing up with the 18-year-old group. The kid came out and was blocking shots above the rim and rebounding. He has improved a lot since then, but you could see the raw physical package. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of guys in the world who are 7-1 that can move like that and have that skill. I was intrigued by him then.”
From that moment on McDonough knew he may have found a true diamond in the rough. That feeling only continued to grow as Len packed up and moved stateside for college.
“He ended up at the University of Maryland,” McDonough told the media after the draft. “Since then his game and stock have skyrocketed. Obviously we’re factoring in big improvement going forward,too.”
For a kid whose first words of English were “I Love This Game,” mimicking the old NBA marketing campaign that he would see during game broadcasts at 3 a.m. in the Ukraine. Being in the NBA is a dream come true. A journey he now realizes started when he was just 17-years old when McDonough first saw him.
It’s all a testament to the hard work the Suns’ newest general manager has put in since his work with the Boston Celtics. Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of his former boss and former Sun, Danny Ainge.
“Ryan has earned the right to do things his way, just because he’s a hard worker,” Danny Ainge toldSBNation.com back in March of this year, prior to McDonough’s hiring in Phoenix. “He doesn’t take shortcuts. At the end of the day, his evaluations have been really good and I trust him. We all look at players differently and we all do it differently. Ryan’s been amazing. He’s been huge for the success of our franchise.
We live in a time where instant reaction and 140 character often supersede thought-out discussion and contemplation. (Some of us are even paid for it.) A world where watching three video clips on the internet and 45 minutes of a game make even the most casual observers experts. But, like they say, you can’t always believe what you see on the internet. Sometimes it is just better to see it for yourself.