The California Golden Bears men’s basketball program received some much needed good news when Ryan Betley committed to play in Berkeley during his final season of eligibility. The graduate transfer previously played in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania and was coached by Steve Donahue. He played his high school ball in Downingtown, PA which is about an hour’s drive from Penn’s famed arena in Philadelphia known as the Palestra. Betley said of his high school days: “It was a great time...not too often does a team like that come through Downingtown. We did something special there. We put West Downingtown on the map.”
Fans who have followed the team in recent years might remember a couple of other Ivy League transfers. In 2014-15, Dwight Tarwater averaged 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds for the Bears after transferring from Cornell. In 2016-17, former Columbia standout Grant Mullins arrived at Cal and shot 43% from long range. He ended the season with averages of 10.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steals.
Betley’s greatest asset is his touch from long range. An effortless catch and shoot motion makes him especially effective, particularly when a teammate spots him in the corner with a pass. In his senior season at Penn, Betley made 36% of three-point attempts while averaging 11.6 points and 5.8 rebounds. His junior campaign was nearly wiped out due to injury, leading to his nomination as Penn’s Comeback of the Year for the 2019-20 season. Betley also sank a whopping 39% of shots behind the arc as a sophomore while scoring 14.3 points per contest. While wearing #00 he made 169 career three-pointers at Penn, good for tenth place in Penn history.
If you had to pick one game last season as Betley’s best, you would look at tape from Penn’s November 23 victory at Providence. As if to provide a microcosm of his overall game, Betley sank a “don’t try this at home” straightaway deep three, then flashed a sheepish smile to teammate Eddie Scott. Betley rebounds well for a guard but can also run the floor, as evidenced by his fast break finish of an assist by Devon Goodman.
Later, he drove into the key and showed fantastic body control to maneuver around Providence defender David Duke and scoop in the shot. After a Providence turnover, Betley instinctively headed downcourt. Goodman got Betley the ball again, and his lay-in sealed the 81-75 win in enemy territory. Penn, led by Betley and the league’s fourth ranked scorer in AJ Brodeur, would go on to compile a 16-11 record.
Like most shooters, Betley can be streaky. He went just 1-10 from the field in a narrow loss to Yale on February 28, but the Quakers bounced back to win their next three contests. In the season’s final contest versus Columbia, Betley finished 5-for-7 from three-point range while finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and an assist. Unfortunately, the Ivy League was then forced to cancel its conference tournament due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, Betley had returned from a long hiatus to prove that he could be a productive, consistent starter.
Betley also managed to succeed against Pac-12 competition. In a November 29 contest versus Arizona at a neutral site in Anaheim, he ended with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Betley hit seven of his 12 field goal attempts against the 14th ranked team in the nation at the time.
Head coach Mark Fox summed up the addition of Betley well: "We are fortunate to add such an outstanding and well-rounded young man. His three-point shooting and experience will impact our team immediately. As a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, he also adds another bright mind to our campus.” Not only does this continue the trend of Ivy League basketball players moving to Berkeley for their final season, it allows Betley to contribute to the Cal program in a major way during his final NCAA campaign.