He admitted it used to be able to use “cuteness” to get where he wanted.
Now he has to rely on his crutches.
So instead of a summer spent at places like Eldora Speedway, the Troy Strawberry Festival and the Mercer and Allen County fairs, he’s spending each day in University of Dayton training room with Flyers trainer Mike Mulcahey.
Turns out life can’t be all funnel cakes, elephant ears and fried onion rings.
The other day Ryan Mikesell talked about summers past and present as he sat in a conference room above the Cronin Center practice gym on the UD campus. His crutches were propped against the wall behind him and he wore a bulky black brace cinched around his waist.
The 6-foot-7 junior forward from St. Henry — one of four Flyers who played in each of the team’s 32 games last season — recently had a pair of surgeries to correct painful impingement problems in both hips.
“I had bone lesions on each of my femurs and those caused the impingement in my hip sockets,” he explained. “I ended up tearing my labrum and had some others problems in there, too, so I had to get it fixed.”
He’s going to take a medical redshirt this coming season as he rehabs and that will put him in some unfamiliar territory.
“Me and my dad just talked about this the other day,” he said. “I’ve only missed one basketball game my entire career. That was in high school, my senior year. I sprained an ankle in a Friday night game against New Bremen.
“We had a game the next night in Celina, but I couldn’t even move my foot that day and I couldn’t play. I was crushed about that, but we had another game on Tuesday and I taped it up and sucked it up through the pain.
“I was going to do whatever I had to play and I did.”
That’s been something of a mantra for Mikesell: Find a way to do what you want.
And that gets us to the cuteness ploy.
His family runs a concession business — Mikesell Concessions — and has food trailers at county fairs, community festivals, Eldora Speedway and other events where people will wolf down all things deep fried and tasty.
He said the business started with his grandfather, who served up pizza. He said his dad, Reed, has done it since he was a kid and expanded the effort with his wife Lisa and their four kids.
“Since I was a little kid I’ve spent my summers at fairs and festivals,” he said. “When I was real young I really enjoyed it. I’d be with my sister Ally — she’s just 13 months older than me — and we were basically like twins. We did everything together.
“We’d get to know the ride operators and we’d kind of sway them with our cuteness and bring them food so we could go on the rides for free.”
It worked like a charm.
But as we got older our parents were like, ‘Get in the truck and start working,’ he said with a laugh.
“When I was younger I liked to talk to people so they had me work out front. I was very good with math and they had me handle the money.”
Those smarts, by the way, now have him working toward a mechanical engineering degree while playing college basketball.
Growing up, once he got high school age and even now that he’s in college, he said he’d rather do the cooking than work the counter: “It’s more entertaining.”
He said the family has four food trailers, including one that serves nothing but desserts. And while they’re sometimes all at the same outing, they often are sent to different events across the state.
So what’s on the menu?
“Fried veggies, fried onion rings, fried Oreos, fried cookie dough, fried Snickers, funnel cakes, elephant ears, you name it,” he said with a grin.
Because of his work he said he never shared the unfettered enthusiasm his friends had when it came to going to the fair or a festival:
“I was there all the time, but for a young kid it was good money.”
But as he continued to grow and improve athletically, he realized his real currency could come on a basketball court.
He averaged 22.5 points and 11.2 rebounds a game as a senior at St. Henry and was named first-team all-state.
That enabled him to make a childhood dream a reality.
Growing up he had followed the exploits of fellow St. Henry hoopster Kurt Huelsman at UD.
“When I was younger I never missed a game when Kurt played on TV,” he said.
He once told me when he was in sixth grade he had gotten an iPad and promptly took a picture at UD Arena and he made it the screen backdrop.
His uncle had UD season tickets and he said that enabled him to come to a lot of Flyers games as he was growing up. He said he would root for Flyers players like Chris Wright, Marcus Johnson, Paul Williams and, of course, the 6-foot-10 Huelsman.
He said he always envisioned playing at UD.
“As a little kid I strived to do the same thing as Kurt and that’s why it’s cool to be able to get to that level now,” he said the other day.
His first game as a Flyer was like something out of a storybook. He scored 21 points in a victory over Southeast Missouri State.
This past season he ended up playing an average of 20.8 minutes, but the extra time on the court may have contributed to the problems he faces now.
“Throughout the year I was feeling some pain in my hips,” he said. “I didn’t know what the problem was so I did all kinds of stuff. I was doing yoga, getting massages and stretching a whole bunch. I got to where I’d have to come in four hours before a game just to get ready. I’d stretch and do the hot tub, then stretch some more and do foam rolls. Anything to get my body loose.”
The problem didn’t improve and when the season ended he said Mulcahey took him to get an MRI. That’s when the impingement problems were discovered.
His surgeries were done by Dr. Tom Ellis, a hip specialist with Orthopedic One in Columbus. The procedure on his right hip was done just over seven weeks ago and the left hip was done three weeks ago.
Now he works every day with Mulcahey, who he said is “awesome. He’s here for us. Obviously he wants us to win, but at the end of the day he’s here to take care of us. He really cares for us.”
Mikesell said his rehab routine is a step-by-step process that will take several months,.
“I’m doing fine, but it’s a slow process,” he said. “And you’ve just got to trust the process. You can’t skip anything. You can’t take a shortcut.”
Cuteness and a plate of fried cookie dough won’t work this time.