You can flip on a television during an Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball and see the tallest player on the floor for Iowa diving around on the floor, being a gritty and tough basketball. That man, is Ryan Kriener.
Ryan Kriener’s life was made for basketball. Born to parents Nancy and Rich Kriener, both over the heights of six foot four inches, Ryan’s life of basketball was shaped for him. Ryan was born in small town New Hampton, Iowa, where he grew up doing various things, including dancing.
Ryan liked to play with his friends and also loved to dance. He never really was in an organized group, just always breaking out into rhythm. If you know Ryan now, you know Ryan is not afraid to dance in any setting. Often in the pregame for Iowa games, he is caught joking around and getting everybody relaxed and loose before the games on the court and in the locker room.
Ryan started playing basketball at age three, and his parent’s claimed “he was the biggest three year old ever.” “I want to play basketball for the Iowa Hawkeyes someday,” said little Ryan Kriener to his parents.
Attempting to make that dream a reality, Ryan played high school basketball at New Hampton, but after his sophomore season, he decided to get himself more ready for the next level and play at Spirit Lake high school. He would play under a coach who had produced multiple division one basketball players and had won a state championship.
“Going to state and developing were very important to me at that age. I thought coach (Dave) Smith and Spirit Lake gave me the best chance to develop into a Hawkeye.”
In his junior season at Spirit Lake is when Ryan made himself known. Now at a towering six foot and nine inches and averaging 19.8 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. Ryan knew he had made the right choice in Spirit Lake when he got his first phone call from a division one program. “TCU was the first to call, and I knew I was on the right track,” said Kriener.
“The TCU offer was nice, but I had bigger aspirations. Coach K and Duke could have called, but I definitely would have stuck with Iowa if coach McCaffery and Iowa had offered me at that point.” Iowa did come knocking, later on in the year over the summer between his junior and senior season when he was playing AAU for the Martin Bros at the AAU National Tournament.
Kriener and his Martin Bros team went on to play out of their minds and go on to win the AAU National Championship. Little did he know what would happen next. Head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes Fran McCaffery was watching one of his future players, Cordell Pemsl, who was Ryan’s AAU teammate.
Ryan recalled the memory very vividly saying, “Coach McCaffery said, ‘hey Cordell bring over those two teammates of yours’ referring to me and Jordan (Bohannon).”
At that moment, Ryan’s childhood dream would come true, “Jordan and Ryan, how would you guys like to be Iowa Hawkeyes, because I am offering you both full scholarships.” Ryan remembers not being able to answer the question. Of course he wanted to say yes, but started to go through every memory of basketball in his head.
He remembered the long nights shooting in a gym with his parents, the long road trips, the intense workouts at six AM every morning, which all led to the road of walking into Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time as an Iowa commit. “I am going to be a Hawkeye,” said Kriener. The struggles he went through to get to this point would continue, but in a different way for Ryan.
The ride at Iowa wasn’t always easy for Ryan, as in his freshmen year at Iowa, he struggled to find a lot of minutes to help make his presence known on the court. The game almost seemed too fast for Ryan. “I felt lost at times on the court, it made me lose a lot of confidence.”
Ryan put in a lot of work before his sophomore season to feel ready for the Big Ten basketball, but going into his sophomore season, he missed the first few games with a leg injury. But was later sidelined longer with a hard concussion. This gave Ryan a new appreciation for basketball and his ability to play.
“I started to play harder and realized my time at Iowa was flying and I was almost halfway done, so I accepted my job as a role player for the team and not a star, and got to work like that.”
At this point, there was a turn in Ryan’s career at Iowa, as he started to get more minutes and develop into his new role well. “My shot attempts went down, which normally means my points would go down, but it didn’t. I was able to start doing the little things right for the team and was able to get easier baskets for myself and my teammates in the process.”
It’s been a good ride for Ryan at Iowa so far, now in his junior season averaging career highs in all categories, including minutes. Which according to Ryan, is one the most important things for him moving forward. You can catch the Hawkeyes and Ryan on TV frequently. Ryan is now a big reason why the Hawkeyes are ranked number twenty-two in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll, and have aspirations of making it to a Final Four for the first time in the school’s history.