On Tuesday, February 15th, the UCSC men’s basketball team will host their final home game of the regular season vs. rival CSU Maritime. While the game is highlighted by the rivalry dubbed “the battle of the furloughs” because of the recent financial crisis within both the California State University and the University of California education systems, a more intriguing aspect is the last appearance of Ryan Matsuoaka as a Slug basketball player.
To say Ryan Matsuoaka is a UCSC legend is understatement. Matsuoka embodies the ideal student athlete, utilizing his impeccable work ethic on and off the court. Praised by his teammates for his effort, willingness, and unselfishness, Ryan is viewed as the ultimate team player. Coach Gordon Johnson, who has coached greats such as all-star point guard Jason Kidd, called Ryan “one of the top 10 players he has ever coached”. He also is the second highest scorer in UCSC men’s basketball history, with over 1500 total points. Coach Johnson felt if Ryan were less of a team player and played more selfishly, he could have potentially broke the all-time scoring record. But I don’t think Ryan would have wanted it that way. He was humble to a fault and full of humility.
I think being the second all-time leading score is a much better fit for Ryan. His game doesn’t revolve around athleticism and glamor but rather craftiness and intelligence. His basketball IQ is off the chart; his ability to make plays for himself and others made his game so valuable to the game. The recent emergence of the UCSC men’s basketball program can be connected with the growth of Ryan Matsuoaka as player and as an individual. A true leader not afraid of any match up – whether it is banging in the post with forwards and centers or slowing down guards with elite quickness on the perimeter. Matsuoaka has been an all-around extremely well-balanced player with more heart than most NBA players.
His teammates loved him for his intangibles and willingness to do the dirty work. The coaches loved him for his intelligence and eagerness to listen to their advice and improve. UCSC loved him for his clutch ability to take over games and inspire the crowd and his fellow teammates with his passionate, intelligent play. Ryan Matsuoaka epitomizes the ideal UCSC student athlete. A humble, hard-worker who compensated what he lacked in flashiness with savvy and intellect. UCSC will forever be in debt to Ryan Matsuoaka for representing this fine university with sophistication and elegance.
Ryan Matsuoaka is UC Santa Cruz. Your last chance to see him play in a Slug uniform will be Tuesday, February 15th at UCSC. Game time is 7:30 pm.