As recently as March of this year, Josh Ruggles was a sharpshooting but little-known sophomore guard for the Wheaton Academy boys basketball program.
Seven months and multiple milestones later, Ruggles is taking his rising hoops profile to the international spotlight.
Ruggles is scheduled to fly to Spain today in advance of the “Supercopa” 3-point shooting competition Saturday orchestrated by ACB, the premier, Spanish professional basketball league. The shootout – loaded with pro players – will take place in Vitoria, Spain.
The invitation came about after Ruggles set what is believed to be a world record for most 3-point shots made in 5 minutes. Ruggles buried 135 trifectas out of 147 attempts – 92 percent – during the August session, which was videotaped and posted to YouTube.
Ruggles’ older brother, Brandon, aggressively promoted the video on social media, drawing online acknowledgement from celebrities such as Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman and Spike Lee. Plenty of others took notice on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Once it got into different countries, some of these different countries started contacting Wheaton Academy and seeing if they could talk to me,” Ruggles said. “Someone from Greece interviewed me, and then I got an email from someone representing the Spanish basketball league, so really just from Brandon tweeting and getting thrown in Twitter jail from all of his tweets, it’s gone viral, and other countries have contacted me, which is really cool.”
Ruggles will travel to Spain with his parents – Dave and Holly – and Brandon. Brandon Ruggles is a college freshman at Notre Dame and, like Josh, will miss a few days of school to make the trip. He’ll help lend his Spanish language acumen to the traveling party, which Josh appreciates greatly.
“You can talk to my Spanish teacher on that one, and she’ll tell you I’m definitely not ready for a Spanish-speaking country,” he quipped.
The competition is scheduled to feature some well-known international pros, including former Bulls forward Andres Nocioni, 2013 Oklahoma City Thunder draftee Alex Abrines and two-time Spanish league scoring leader Jaycee Carroll, a former U.S. college star at Utah State.
Ruggles, 16, thinks he’s the only teenager in the competition, so he’s going in with an underdog’s mindset.
“I think for me, I just look at it if I go out here and make 1 out of 25, we’ll just leave it in Spain and come back,” Ruggles said. “I really don’t think I have anything to lose. I’m the young one in the competition; if I go out there and outshoot a European pro or someone like Andres Nocioni … I’ll just go out, have fun and see if I can net most of my shots.”
Even if he can conquer international stage fright in the large arena, Ruggles’ shooting depth will be tested with the 3-point line at 22 feet, which the 6-foot-1, 155-pound guard said is at the deeper end of his typical range.
“I’m not really worried about the distance,” Ruggles said. “I tried it the other day in practice and hit 22 for 25 in going through a practice round, so I’m not so much worried about distance as the different ball they use. I have to get a feel for the ball. I’m going in blind on that one.”
Ruggles’ wild 2013 heated up in March, when he won the IHSA Class 3A and King of the Hill 3-point shooting contests at the state basketball tournament in Peoria.
He didn’t rest on those achievements, continuing his feverish work ethic in the following months as he worked toward his junior season at Wheaton Academy, stirring some college recruiting interest in the process.
The Spain trip will mark Ruggles’ first overseas journey. About the only down-side – in order to maintain his school eligibility, Ruggles would not be able to accept the cash prize if he won, even if he donated the money.
But Ruggles said this trip is about the life experience, not the trappings of his growing celebrity.
“I never would have thought that I’d be shooting in Spain in a 3-point contest,” Ruggles said. “I never would have thought that these things would happen, but God put me in the right opportunities, and I’ve made the most of them.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.