IOWA CITY — It’s a 575-mile round trip from Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa to Iowa City, one Rich and Nancy Kriener have made dozens of times in the winter over the last four years.
If you guessed they’ll be happy to be done with that now that their son has reached his final home game as an Iowa basketball player, you guessed wrong.
“It’s hard to believe four years have gone by,” Rich Kriener said Monday. “It’s been a real treat to be part of it. Hopefully it’ll keep going for a little while yet.”
“Every parent wants their child to be happy and successful,” said Nancy Kriener. “Ryan has found both of those things at Iowa doing what he loves. He loves his teammates and coaches and has found the perfect fit for him. It’s going to be so hard to say goodbye to this part of his dream. Senior Night has me feeling nostalgic and extremely proud.”
Along with Bakari Evelyn and Riley Till, Kriener says goodbye to Hawkeye fans and vice versa Tuesday night when Iowa closes its home portion of the 2019-20 schedule by trying to beat Purdue to go 10-0 in Big Ten home games.
Evelyn has spent his senior season here as a graduate transfer. Till, a fourth-year junior placed on scholarship last year, has decided to either be a grad transfer and play elsewhere next year or go into the work force.
Kriener came to Iowa in the same 2016 recruiting class that brought Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook, Maishe Dailey and Cordell Pemsl. Dailey transferred last year, Cook turned pro last spring, and the other two are fourth-year juniors because of surgeries. So Kriener will get feted Tuesday without the other five.
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That shows little can go as planned in college sports or life itself. However, Kriener wanted to be a Hawkeye and a productive one at that, and those plans have been fulfilled.
Kriener averages 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds. Those numbers make him one of hundreds of Division I players. Imagine this season’s Hawkeyes without him, though, and you’d picture a hole they simply couldn’t fill. His skills, his smarts, and the respect he gets from his teammates are significant in the formula that has the Hawkeyes 20-9 and NCAA tournament-bound despite many obstacles from November to the present.
“We’ve had the same culture for two years now,” Kriener said Monday, “and that’s something we can really build on.”
“We always go back to that sophomore year where I think he was really on the verge,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, “and then he had the two concussions, which obviously would set anybody back. When we played Penn State here that year, he was on his way to having one of the best games of the year, and that’s when he got his first injury. And then he had the other one at Rutgers, and it took a little while, as you can imagine.
“So we got him back, and he was great the last two years, because he can come off the bench and score. He can come off the bench and lead. He can come off the bench and bring toughness, and he can come off the bench and be a defender. ... He has a complete skill set.”
Rich Kriener played collegiately and was an all-conference player at then-Mankato State. He said he started working with Ryan on a jump-hook when the boy was a fifth-grader. That shot has served Ryan well on many occasions at Iowa.
“Not all big guys have that,” Rich said. “He worked on his midrange and 3-point shots so he’d have a chance to score at different levels.”
Kriener’s parents love what he’s done as a player. They really love that his play only begins to describe him.
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“I am most proud of his academic degree,” said Nancy, an educator for over two decades. “It seems like many people forget that these are student-athletes who all have homework and tests and projects and reports and essays to write.
“On the court, I am most proud of him being a great teammate as well as his perseverance, grit, toughness and relentless determination to make his dreams come true.”
“The thing I’m proudest of is he’s a man of character,” Rich said. “He’s just a good person.”
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