Catching up with local athletes amid COVID-19: Ryan Bruns

By: 
Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

This article appears in the May 28 edition of The Community Post

Sports are on hold around the country as COVID-19 is being addressed. In the upcoming weeks, The Community Post will be checking in with local athletes and coaches that continued their athletic careers after high school and how COVID-19 is effecting them in their respective sport.

This week, The Community Post talked with Marion Local alum Ryan Bruns. 

After finishing up a four-year basketball career at Ohio Northern University (ONU), Bruns signed with Aquimisa Carbajosa, a professional basketball team in Spain that plays in the Liga Espanola de Baloncesto Aficionado (EBA).

As a result of COVID-19 cancelling the remainder of their season, Bruns has been back home in Maria Stein. 

 

The beginning 

 

Bruns, a two-sport standout athlete for the Flyers in high school, knew basketball wasn’t forever so out of high school he chose ONU based on his major which was Civil Engineering. He didn’t even really think about continuing his basketball career until the back half of his college career.

“Around my junior and senior years was when I thought it might be possible to play overseas just because my coach had told me he had people contacting him, that was more where it came from,” said Bruns in an over the phone interview on continuing his basketball career as his time at ONU came to a close. 

Luckily for Bruns, his head coach at ONU knew another local product, Charlie Ernst, who hails from Minster and is currently the head coach for the men's basketball program at Findlay. 

After reaching out to Ernst for advice on how to best help Bruns, Ernst provided them with contact information for agents of other players he had sent overseas after basketball careers at Findlay. 

“After that, a few agents reached out to me,” said Bruns. “And one, we went through an interview process, got on skype and sat down. We talked to each other about, not how everything works, but a basic understanding of how overseas basketball works and how the process would be. That’s how I got my agent, through Charlie Ernst.  

 

A season interrupted 

 

Fast forward to March 2020 and Aquimisa Carbajosa was rolling, 20-0 with a handful of regular season games remaining before the post season, before Bruns and his teammates received the news that the season was postponed. 

Bruns and his teammates were met by the coaching staff as they arrived for a weightlifting session and were told they couldn’t practice or lift together and that they would have to go home and stay in their apartments until the league announced what the plan moving forward would be. 

For Bruns, the writing was on the wall. Initially, like many other sports around the world, it sounded at the beginning of the week that sports would go on without spectators. By the end of that week, sports came to a grinding halt. 

“As that week progressed, we saw the NBA suspended their season for a month,” said Bruns. “My roommate from Israel, they suspended his league for a month, month and a half too. Some of those (placese) in Israel, as far as stats of people that were infected, were way better off compared to Spain. That’s when we started looking for flights.”

Up to that point, Bruns had been adjusting to professional basketball just fine with averages of 26 minutes per game, 14 points per game, seven rebounds per game and two blocked shots per game.

It wasn’t easy, though, Bruns touched on needing to find a groove and adjusting to the different style of play in Europe. 

That different style of play included packing the paint, an emphasis on defense and team defense and encouragement from the coaches to use all of the fouls that they were allotted. 

“Their philosophy, and (coach) says that’s the way everyone does it over there,” said Bruns. “Is that the referee might call the first one but then maybe doesn’t call the next three or four. He might only call six or seven and you’re going to come out on top. Eventually, they’ll get used to seeing it and not calling it.”

Team wise, Bruns said that everyone on the team spoke English which wasn’t something every team had the luxury of and gelled quickly.

“Everyone, and it sounds corny, but everyone had the team’s best interest when playing,” said Bruns of the team's success. “That really helped us gel from the start. We had a month of preseason, I would say after about two months, we really started gelling well. We could sit and someone could make a suggestion and everyone would accept it and not look at it like, 'oh he thinks I'm bad and doing everything wrong,' we took it as constructive criticism.” 

 

Post-cancelation

 

Spain, with over 28,700 confirmed deaths thus far due to COVID-19, was one of many nations to institute strict lockdown measures to help slow the spread of the pandemic.

A week after the team was informed of the cancelations on Mar. 10, Bruns was on a plane home to the United States. 

“Our agent was telling us to stay,” said Bruns. “But we saw what happened with the NBA and Israel’s league. He’s telling us to stay but (my roommate and I) both said that’s not the right thing to do. The rest of the American players are going home, their agents are telling them get out of here and go home. I was a little worried about not being able to get back home but I wasn’t super worried.. Just for the sole fact, the U.S. is such a big country and there’s so many citizens overseas. If they were to completely close the border, it would leave so many citizens stranded and that would look really bad.” 

Bruns keeps in communication with his roommates and has a WhatsApp group message with his team and anytime the league released information over the past few weeks, the team discussed it. 

With the season canceled, there remains uncertainty in what lies ahead. The team was poised to finish in the top six and the league runs on a promotional tier of divisions similar to soccer’s top leagues. 

“They had to define all of that stuff (with the cancelations),” said Bruns. “What’s proposed is we’ll move up to the third division. They still have to vote on it but the way my coaches and everyone else talked was that they were positive we would move up and they’ll vote to approve that. it’s not 100 percent guaranteed but they’re pretty sure we’ll move up to the third division.”

Regardless of whether Bruns returns to Europe to play basketball next year or not, he’s spending the rest of the summer back home while working and visiting friends and family. 

Once Bruns finished school, he got a job at Choice One Engineering in Sidney. The company knew who he was as a local product and worked out a deal that would allow him to have a job waiting for him whenever his basketball days were done. In addition to that, they’ve allowed him to come back during the summers and work to get some hours in. 

Sports wise, gyms are now opening back up but Bruns had some free weights and his own makeshift squat rack he’s been using as well while many faculties were closed. 

“I’m not as worried about it right now because were at the end of the season,” said Bruns on not being able to get shots up. “ If this would’ve happened and we were starting our season in two weeks, I'd be scrambling everywhere. Right now, I’ve been taking a break and decompressing a bit. Focusing on lifting a bit and relaxing a bit.”

After playing basketball for so long, Bruns acknowledged it was strange not being able to do so but with where his season was cut short, that it felt similar to a college basketball season. 

Bruns has been catching up with friends and family and also reading, a new hobby, in his downtime since he’s been home. 

“My favorite book by far since I’ve been reading has been ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ an autobiography of David Goggins,” said Bruns. “It really puts a perspective on how hard life could’ve been and how much you can achieve if you put your mind to it."

“One of the best years of basketball team wise I’ve ever had,” added Bruns when discussing the season while looking on the bright side. “We’re not going to be able to finish it, which kind of sucked. But oh well, there could be worse things that happen.