Ryne Williams pivots in the post looking to pass in an 86-64 win against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Feb. 2, 2019. (LOLA CHASE/Golden Gate Xpress)
Life after collegiate basketball involves recuperation, reflection and resourcefulness when you’re looking to go pro.
SF State senior Ryne Williams and graduate Jiday Ugbaja join that search in navigating the waters, looking to make a splash in a professional
Williams and Ugbaja share the beginning of their journey and part of the process in looking to become professional basketball players,
whether it’s in the US or overseas.
“That was kind of the first step, was just talking to my people,” Williams said. “I contacted some connects that I know within the basketball community, both outside of San Francisco and Northern California and then outside of Southern California, which is where I grew up.”
Even in the offseason, there are no days off for these guys, knowing that they must stay in shape, the gym is somewhere they will still frequent
while the search continues.
Throughout his career at SF State from 2015 to 2019, Williams shot an average of 44 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc,
with the BECA and history major strumming an air guitar when his 3-point shots fall through the net as a celebration.
“I was going on with my workouts, trying to stay in shape the best I can,” Williams said. “Next thing you know, I’m getting hit up on Facebook
by this agent based in Greece and even before that was this other agent from Portland.”
Having a great collegiate career helps Williams, being a part of the All-Conference teams puts him in a bigger spotlight than most. “That
benefitted me in terms of being found,” Williams said. “The big question for me has been: what do I want out of professional basketball?”
The physical and mental fatigue that comes with playing college basketball for the last four years adds up, especially for Williams being a
“Do I want to deal with the wear and tear that goes on with my body?” Williams said. “It’s not an easy thing, it wears you down mentally and physically, and do I want to continue to pursue something like that?”
Even with this in mind, Williams’ love for the game of basketball is undeniable, having left it all out on the floor during his career at SF State. Williams finished his senior year averaging 10.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and two 3-pointers. He also has a passion for broadcasting and journalism which he would like to pursue as well and is a significant part of his decision making.
“I want to pursue professional basketball the best I can,” said Williams. “I want to keep all avenues open. I’ve been emailing teams and talking to people. Like I said, it’s just all options. My next step from here would probably to sign with an agent, get my highlight tape out there and send it out to some teams to see what the interest levels are and move from there.”With this being Williams’ shot at getting to the professional level, he said he’s all in.
Ugbaja, Williams’ teammate, is a graduate guard from SF State who is pursuing a professional career as well after playing one season for the Gators and four at Sacramento State.
“Basically, [I’m] just in wait-mode right now, seeing what agent will get me the best offer overseas or possibly the G League,” Ugbaja said. “Right now I’m looking at Spain and places in Europe, but I’m not totally sure yet since I still have time.”
Ugbaja’s cousin Ike Iroegbu plays overseas in the Lithuanian Basketball League for Lietkabelis Panevėžys and has an agent that gives Ugbaja advice, but for the most part he listens to his older cousin that has been through it.
“Getting to the NBA is the ultimate goal, obviously,” Ugbaja said. “Whatever fits me best and gives me the better opportunity for my future.”
Ugbaja shot 43 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the three-point line in his final collegiate season and averaged 13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the Gators. In 2013, the Nigerian guard was selected to represent Team Pan Africa in the Nike Global Challenge, playing against the likes of current NBA stars Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell and Jamal Murray. He led the entire tournament in minutes played.
This past season, Ugbaja maintained a tireless work ethic, showing it with game-winning free throws in a 76-74 win against Cal State LA on Jan. 31, 2019, which earned him Gator of the Week honors. Ugbaja would lead the Gators in scoring, with 20 points on the night and Williams was not too far behind him with 14 of his own.
SF State’s head basketball coach Vince Inglima is excited for them both.
“I think they each have a lot to offer their potential clubs,” Inglima said. “Jiday is a high-level shot-maker who can take over games. Ryne is a matchup nightmare for opposing bigs with his deep shooting range,” the second-year coach said. “I can see them both having success for a while overseas.”
Their coach wants them to treat it like a job and that if they did decide to pursue a professional career overseas, they should remember that they will be held to a different standard than the rest of the guys.
Inglima knows from his own experience after he played professionally overseas in Australia for the Dandenong Rangers, where he led the team to the grand final in his first season.
“You have to continue to develop as a player and perform at a high level consistently,” Inglima said. “As an ‘import’ you are often held to a higher standard for professionalism and work ethic than the local guys. Both of them are more than capable of going on and representing their respective clubs well both on and off the court.”
Whether as an “import” to the many leagues overseas, the NBA, its development league, or as rookie professionals in the US, Williams and Ugbaja have multiple avenues to tread in pursuit of their basketball dream that will forever be linked to the SF State Gators.