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Driven to success

What started as a difficult transition has resulted in top-level recognition

Posted: December 21, 2008 9:00 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.

The Master's College's Ryan Zamroz is averaging 14.3 points per game over his career for the Mustangs.

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When you look at The Master's College senior Ryan Zamroz you may not think basketball player.

His 6-foot-3-inch lanky frame and humble demeanor don't always connote fierce competitor.

But don't judge this book by its cover.

Zamroz is fierce.

He is a competitor.

And the self-proclaimed "unathletic white guy" has the accolades and statistics to prove it.

In 2007 Zamroz was named to the All-Golden State Athletic Conference first team.

That same year, Zamroz received what was likely the biggest honor in his college career, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics second team All-American selection.

He was the only member of the TMC men's basketball team to receive such a recognition that season.

Zamroz said he was in awe of the All-American honor given how the Mustangs finished their 2007 campaign.

"I was pretty surprised with the All-American (honor) because we didn't make it to the national tourney," he says. "I would attribute that with respect from the GSAC. I was grateful for that."

Zamroz didn't receive a phone call or a letter of correspondence telling him of the honor.

He just happened to stumble upon it.

"I looked online and pulled it up and called my parents and they were like, ‘No way!'" Zamroz recalls. "They didn't expect it either."

Zamroz averaged 19 points per game last season while accumulating 106 rebounds, 92 assists and 23 steals.

He also shot 86 percent from the free throw line.

But Zamroz wasn't always the standout player he had become.

After relocating to the west coast from a small town in Pennsylvania, Zamroz was hit with the harsh reality of playing basketball at a higher, more competitive level during his freshman year at TMC.

"He was a very skilled high school player," third-year head coach Chuck Martin says. "The demands of this level of play stressed him out. We had an exit meeting at the end of his sophomore year and I explained to him, ‘You've got to get to the point where you are hard to guard and you can go 30-35 minutes a night.'"

Zamroz took Martin's words and went to work.

Martin said Zamroz's regiment had the undergraduate reverting back to the basics.

"He took the challenge and upped his workout regiment and by the time he came back, he was a stronger and better-conditioned athlete. He would wear people out."

Zamroz, along with teammate and best friend Eric Durson, was the catalyst for catapulting the men's basketball program back into conference contention.

The Mustangs finished sixth in the GSAC and had its first winning record since their 2004-05 campaign.

Most importantly, however, the team was back in the GSAC National Tournament.

Although the team's stay at the tournament was short, a 69-62 loss to California Baptist in the first round, Zamroz was satisfied with the team's run and accomplishments.

"It was a bittersweet ending," he said.

But Zamroz said 2007's shortcomings put the team on track for contending in 2008.

"It was the most successful season for me so far," he said. "It was a step in the right direction and we have even more talent this season."

And the Mustangs have started the 2008 season off right.
With a 9-3 overall record, the best start in Martin's tenure, the Mustangs have defeated two NCAA Division II schools (Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Dominguez Hills) and knocked out the NAIA's No. 11-ranked team Azusa Pacific in a 79-69 contest on Dec. 12.

A captain in his senior year for the Mustangs, Zamroz says his goals for the team remain the same - getting another bid to the national tournament and embracing his role as a leader for the team.

"I'd like to accomplish All-American again," Zamroz added. "In a way I feel like if I don't do it again it's a little bit of a let down, but I'm not too worried about that. Just as long as the team is successful, then just being a senior and a leader, those things will just take care of themselves."

Zamroz has had a slight decrease in minutes this season, something Martin wanted to do as to not wear him out, feeling he might have played him too much last year.

Zamroz is taking it all in stride.

As a matter of fact, less time on the court allows him to focus on other things off the court like planning a wedding to Lady Mustangs basketball player Stacy Nanninga.

"We've managed him a lot better," Martin said. "There were times (last season) that we just couldn't take him off the court. We're close to being on track and having him be capable down the stretch. He's a leader and that's the role he likes to play. He has a good idea of what the job is and the price it takes to get it done."

wmcneal@the-signal.com


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