VALPARAISO | Whether it was a 26-point first-half performance against Bethune-Cookman, seven 3-pointers against Milwaukee, or 12 points in the final 2:17 in a come-from-behind victory against Wright State, Ryan Broekhoff has solidified his standing as one of the best players to ever wear a Valparaiso uniform.
Not that Broekhoff wants any part of that discussion.
“That type of stuff has never crossed my mind,” Broekhoff said of leaving a legacy. “There have been a lot of great players before me and there will be a lot of great players after me. My goal has always been to get to the NCAA tournament. I’m not about trying to pass any records or anything like that. The NCAA tournament keeps me motivated.”
Broekhoff has been the go-to player for a strong Valparaiso offense the past two years, but it was the learning experiences he received in his final year at the Australian Institute of Sport and his freshman year at Valparaiso that helped pave the way for his current success.
Broekhoff rode the bench both seasons, playing behind future college stars such as Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary’s) and Brock Motum (Washington State) at AIS and then Cory Johnson and Mike Rogers at Valparaiso.
“I came in with something to prove,” Broekhoff said of his first season. “I wanted to earn my minutes and was really trying to find myself as a player. Coming from Australia, I was always an outside shooter and that was something I was hoping to change.”
Broekhoff worked to expand every aspect of his game when he arrived at Valparaiso, but that doesn’t mean he completely abandoned his shooting reputation.
“I was immediately very impressed by Rowdy,” then-senior Brandon McPherson said. “We’d play different shooting games and I would destroy all of the guys. Then Rowdy came in and he was the only person that put up any kind of fight. He was always trying to get shots up and was always around the gym. You knew with his work ethic he was going to really be something special.”
Minutes were hard to come by as a freshman, but Broekhoff kept his head steady by attacking each practice like it was a game. Homer Drew and the coaching staff never made any promises about how many minutes Broekhoff would get, but said they’d make every opportunity available to him to become a better basketball player.
“I didn’t expect a lot when I first came in,” Broekhoff said. “The first crack at the game went to the older guys, the guys ahead of me. He was where I wanted to be. He had the minutes I wanted to play. He had the position that I wanted to play. I went out there every day trying to show that I could play this game.”
Broekhoff wasn’t referring to a specific player, just the player he was lined up against in practice on a particular day. Some days it was Rogers, others it was Matt Kenney. Broekhoff’s philosophy, then and now, was to push his teammates as much as they were pushing him.
“That’s the best way to improve,” Broekhoff said. “Whoever my matchup was, I wanted to prove myself in a way, and not in a way that would make them look bad. I just wanted to compete.”