At first glance, Cpl. Ryan McLellan doesn’t portray the image of a typical basketball prodigy. At 5’9, he looks like any another average Joe when he laces up his shoes. But when he steps out onto the floor with a basketball in his hand, he is anything but.
For the last three years, McLellan has shown the Marine Corps that size doesn’t matter in the game of basketball.
McLellan first started playing basketball at 8 years old. He said growing up in the farming community of Newport, Maine, there wasn’t much to do. So for fun, he would play basketball with his brothers and stepfather in the backyard.
“When I first started to play basketball, it was just a means for me to stay close to my family,” McLellan said. “It was just a simple game that eventually grew into a passion.”
It was in high school when McLellan started playing basketball competitively. Each fall he would play basketball for Nokomis Regional High School, Newport, Maine, while each summer he played on a traveling Amateur Athletic Union team in Maine.
“In high school, basketball consumed my life,” McLellan said. “I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t playing ball.”
After high school, McLellan said he stayed active in basketball, playing in adult leagues and in basketball tournaments. But it wasn’t until he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, that he truly became recommitted to the sport.
“I started playing basketball at the gym on Okinawa,’ said McLellan. “That led me into playing tournaments and eventually into my selection for the All-Marine basketball team.”
On the court, McLellan is a genius. He has the innate ability to pick defenses apart, by both driving to the basket and with his passing. But it’s his shooting that sets him apart from the rest. McLellan said it is his work ethic that has made him the player he is today.
“In high school I would always spend my time in the gym,’ McLellan said. “Every day for hours all I would do is just shoot basketball. I still have the same mentality today. The only way I get better is through practice.”
For McLellan, the practice has paid off. McLellan was selected as a member of both the All-Marine Basketball team and the All-Armed Forces Team. On his merits, he was also chosen as the 2008 Marine Corps Athlete of the Year. McLellan admits winning the award was a humbling experience.
“The Marine Corps is full of great athletes,” McLellan said. “To even be considered as one of them is an honor.”
McLellan said he will try out again this year for the 2010 All-Marine Basketball team. Although he has accomplished so much in basketball, he said he isn’t done yet. He has hopes this year to win gold at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire in Texas, and if history repeats itself, he will.
“Playing against the military teams from around the world has shown me the potential I have in the sport,” said McLellan. “Every day, I continue to strive to the best player I can be.”