Ryin Ott to join sister Riley at Purdue Fort Wayne
When the Ott family took Riley to Purdue Fort Wayne for her freshman school year last August, the La Porte graduate and Indiana All-Star gave her sister Ryin, a Slicers junior, a hand-written letter that she asked her not to read until she got back home.
"Don't let anyone tell you you're under my shadow," Ryin said of Riley's message.
The two share such a close relationship both on and off the court that Ryin never had a concern about following in Riley's footsteps at the collegiate level. As it turned out, those strong family ties were a contributing factor in Ryin's decision to join Riley in playing for the Mastodons.
"We've always been really close from a young age," said Ryin, who committed to Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday. "Obviously, basketball, we would play together. We were in different age groups, but we were on the same AAU teams. We're always around each other, doing workouts, drills outside. Outside of basketball, we have some of the same friends, so we hang out, do a whole bunch of stuff together. Purdue Fort Wayne made it really clear during my recruiting and when they offered that it wasn't because Riley is there, but the chance to play with her again another two years is something I couldn't pass up."
Of course, having a player in the same house -- Riley's been home since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- didn't hurt the school's chances, though she did her best not to make Ryin feel any undue pressure.
"We're so close, we do everything together," Riley said. "I missed having that communication, seeing her at school, going to class. Probably the hardest part in the whole thing was being well-rounded. I didn't want to just say, oh, it's so good, and then when she gets there, if that's not what she experienced, I would have hated that. I was just asking her all of the pros and cons. I told her I was going to be so happy no matter where she goes, but now that she's decided to go to Purdue Fort Wayne, I'm so excited. It couldn't be any better."
One way or another, Ryin was headed for Fort Wayne. St. Francis, where her cousin Garrott Ott-Large will play, was her second choice. Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Youngstown State, Long Island were her other Division I offers with Davenport, Grand Valley State, Purdue Northwest and Lewis also pursuing her.
"Size obviously didn't really matter since I was going to St. Francis (otherwise)," Ryin said. "Both are close to home, so my family can come to games, and it fit with what I wanted to do academically (Accounting). With Riley there, I've been to games and watched practices, I've been able to bond with the team, I've toured the campus, I've been to elite camps."
Ryin, a 6-foot shooting guard/small forward, averaged 15.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game for the Slicers this season.
"I'm excited to hear the news that Ryin has committed to Purdue Fort Wayne," said former La Porte coach Rob Walker, who coached both Otts. "She played her best against tough competition and under pressure, which helped lead the Slicers to an Elite Eight appearance in Class 4A. I believe her best basketball is on her horizon, which will make her a huge addition to the Mastodons."
Riley, a 5-5 guard, transitioned to college smoothly, making the Summit League All-Newcomer Team. Her 10.9 points per game average is the second best by a freshman in program history.
"When we play, we'll make little comments, but it's a good competitiveness," Ryin said. "It's helped me work harder."
While Riley's two years older than Ryin, she stopped being the 'bigger' sister when she was a sophomore and Ryin was in eighth grade.
"There was a picture from when our dad ran for sheriff and the next year, she sprouted so much, she was taller," Riley said. "It was like, wow, what a difference in a year, it was crazy. We haven't played one on one for a while. As sisters playing the same sport, we both had a competitive spirit. We were always going at it. I'd give her crap. As we got older, I started to realize, to beat her, I had to push myself to be better, which motivated her to get better. The whole leadership idea kind of started with her and it led to pushing others to be better."
Though the lack of clarity over the summer AAU season didn't greatly factor into Ryin's decision to commit now, doing so certainly eases the burden going forward.
"For a while, I planned my commitment for early June, but I was like, why keep waiting?" she said. "Now I can have more fun, play more relaxed."
The younger Ott took a unique approach to her announcement, sending a picture of a Scrabble board with the words, 'IM READY TO BE A DON,' to the coaches in a group text.
"My coach said, that was so creative, did you give her that idea?" Riley said. "I said no. I did nothing like that. I just had the typical phone call."
"We've been playing a lot of board games," Ryin said. "I was just thinking of a creative way to do it."
Players have to stay in dorms as freshmen and sophomores, so the two won't be living together at school. That said, there's no question they'll see plenty of each other when they're back on the same team.
"By the time she's there, I'll be off campus, but I'm sure she'll be at my apartment all the time," Riley said. "It'll be like home, except for no mom and dad."
Ryin Ott will join her sister Riley at Purdue Fort Wayne in 2021. The La Porte junior guard-forward verbally committed to the Mastodons on Tuesday. Ryin was an all-Duneland Athletic Conference selection for the Slicers this season, while Riley made the Summit League All-Newcomer Team as a freshman. (Photo provided)