Nestled in the tourist town of Fort Meyers, Fla. is Bishop Verot High School, home to only 663 students and a few notable alumni to whom they hold close. And nestled in the heart of Bishop Verot is Ricky Doyle, who has emerged as a true freshman at the University of Michigan, become one of the country’s most exciting big men to watch.
“He’s Ricky,” says Bishop Verot basketball head coach Matt Herting, as he laughs trying to sum what it was like to coach Ricky Doyle for four years.
The quirks come with the package. If Doyle finishes at the rim, a tasteful flex of the biceps and a fist pump are sure to follow. But if Doyle finishes at the rim, and you happen to be standing beneath him in the end, helpless, it would be in your best interest to plug your ears immediately.
He’s going to let it loose and let you know what just happened.
If you peel back the layers that solidify so perfectly on the hardwood, it turns out Doyle is more for his teammates than he is for himself.
“He’s a total team player, great kid, super hard worker, totally selfless,” explains Herting. “I think that’s what got him where he is today. He’s a guy that never thought he was better than anybody. He treated the 12th guys on the team like the best guys on the team. I think that’s why he’s so good.”
And it hasn’t left him.
Michigan played Minnesota on Saturday afternoon. At the same time, Herting’s team was competing in a non-conference game against Vanguard. Herting says he tries to keep up with his former player, but there’s a natural conflict when one is playing and the other coaching in the same season.
Herting was receiving live updates via text from Doyle’s dad, Richard Doyle.
Then after the game, Ricky Doyle connected with his former coach to see how things went on his end.
“He was just as concerned with how we did as how he did,” says Herting.
Unassuming, hard-working, humble—the words used by Ricky Doyle’s former high school coach to describe the player he mentored for four years are not deployed lightly.
When you consider the praises are coming from a coach who has put, to his best guess, roughly 30 basketball players into college programs during his 16-year tenure at Bishop Verot, you begin to understand just how special this Doyle kid really is.
“Like I told everybody when he came in as a freshman,” Herting says, “this kid is going to be really, really good. And he is.”
Herting could not have been more accurate with his early analysis.
Doyle averaged 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game throughout his career at Bishop Verot. His senior year only included one game in which he didn’t score at least 20 points. It was the only season his team didn’t capture a 4A District 11 League title.
What is it that’s behind the curtain though? What is it that keeps the 6-foot-9, 245-pound big man going?
No matter if it’s in the warm sun of Fort Meyers, Fla., or in the beautiful college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., it’s his parents, Richard and Lenka Doyle, who feed the beast.
“The best part about him is his parents are super supportive, totally hands off,” explains Herting. “They’re just totally selfless, appreciative, hard-working people, and that shows in Ricky.
“Not many parents nowadays are like his parents.”
In fact, Herting’s relationship with the Doyle family goes beyond the shared common interest in Doyle and his well being.
“[I’m] very close to the family,” says Herting. “They’re like family to me.”
They’re so close that even Doyle’s recruiting process was a team effort between Herting and Richard Doyle.
When recruiting started to pick up, those two weren’t shy when it came to telling coaches it wasn’t going to happen if they felt the school wouldn’t be a good fit for Doyle.
“When schools recruited him that I didn’t think were a good fit, or his dad didn’t think were a good fit, we were totally honest with the coaches,” says Herting.
Although it did take quite a while for the recruiting process to pick up speed.
Doyle was often discounted because of how late in his high school career he bloomed and turned into a true talent. He also was not part of the AAU circuit, which is almost unheard of for players these days who want to play major college basketball.
Hindsight has 20:20 vision, however, and those who passed on Doyle then are feeling foolish now.
There was one man who wisely chose not to pass on Doyle. It was Dave Telep, who is now a scout for the San Antonio Spurs.
“He’s a John Beilein player,” Telep told Herting after Doyle’s sophomore year at Bishop Verot.
He told Herting to not let Doyle do a thing before he got a chance to talk with Beilein, and that may have turned out to be the best move made during the entire process.
Matt Herting was not going to turn down Michigan. Richard and Lenka Doyle were not going to turn down Michigan. Ricky Doyle was not going to turn down Michigan.
On Jan. 10, Michigan hosted Minnesota. Ricky Doyle made his sixth start of the season for the Wolverines at the forward position. The final two of his 12 points on the day came with 26 seconds to play. Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. lobbed an alley-oop to Doyle, who then dunked it with authority over a poor defender beneath him.
And yes, that defender heard about it immediately.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.