The gym at West Ranch High School was booming. The stands were roaring from parents cheering on their kids as they were able to sneak into the 2014 CIF Southern Section Playoffs. It would be the last game of the season for the Wildcats unless they were to beat a higher division team of Long Beach Milikan Rams.
For Ryne Williams, now a San Francisco State Gator, it was the last game of his high school career. Not to be taken lightly.
Unfortunately, his farewell tour was cut short when a bouncy Malik Marquetti went over Williams’ head for a rebound. His landing pad, Williams’ front tooth. He couldn’t continue the game as his tooth was lodged into his mouth, not popped out like a similar incident that happened to Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas when he ran into the elbow of Washington Wizard’s Otto Porter and got his tooth knocked out.
While Thomas went back in the game to lead the Celtics to a win, the Wildcats were on their way to lose this game. Spoiler Alert: Rams 105 — Wildcats 70.
“I was so pissed,” said Williams of the aftermath. “I wanted to go out with a bang, I didn’t want to leave my boys like this.”
Luckily Stacy Williams, his mother, knew a dentist down the street from the high school who introduced them to an oral surgeon who was able to see them that night.
“I always told him he should get a mouth guard to wear when he plays basketball,” Stacy said. “But he would always say ‘No Mom, nobody wears those in basketball.’”
Now the mouthguard is a part of Williams’ game.
“That tooth, it doesn’t affect me on the court,” Williams said. “It only affects me if I don’t have my mouthguard.”
Williams recalls a time from the 2015-16 season when the Gators were hopping on a bus to play UC Santa Barbara. He was all packed and double-checking he had everything for the road trip when he realized he forgot his mouthguard in the locker room. They were about to close the doors to take off and the coach gave him an ultimatum–Run or the bus is leaving.
“You just see me sprinting up the hill over on State,” Williams said. “I can’t play without it.”
When Williams lost his tooth it wasn’t life-changing necessarily.
“It was just extra,” Williams said. “And to this day, it’s not there, and I don’t wear it for that reason cause I don’t really care.”
One thing he does care about is his shooting percentage. He takes pride in being a big-man who can shoot. Williams went for 47% shooting from beyond the three-point line in the 15-16 season. This is key for the Gators’ offense as it stretches the defense and forces players to the perimeter opening up the lane for driving layups.
“Ryne on offense, has been great for us,” said Vince Inglima, interim Head Coach for the Gators, “Defense, not so much.”
Last season, Williams played behind Ajaypal Kahlon, who took pride in a different area of his game, his defense. Kahlon finished his college career making SFSU history by notching the second position in Career Blocked Shots (84). Kahlon also finished the 16-17 season with 261 total rebounds.
“That’s the next step in Ryne’s progression,” Inglima said. “He is a great spot-up shooter, a great passer and screener on the offensive end. Now we need to add that layer of being a great defender and the next layer of being an around-the-basket force, then the sky’s the limit for him.”