Every Christmas Eve for the past three years has begun on the hardwood floors of a gym for the Ryckbosch family. One ball, one rim, three people, and a game of 21. One former professional basketball player, a current Division I player, and a big brother who’s taller and talks trash. Somehow big brother always finds a way to be at the center of the match-up.
“I always play it up like I’m the hidden star because I am a tiny bit taller than him. So I trash talk like crazy,” Steven Ryckbosch said, brother of DePaul forward, Peter Ryckbosch. “My goal is to block my mom’s shot, which I do and then my goal is to score a couple points.”
For the past few years Peter has taken top dog in this game and he has proved why he’s the best athlete between the three. But mom, Lisa Ryckbosch finished second last year beating Steven, she said. That will only heighten the stakes for this year’s game.
Basketball is just a game for many of us. But for the Ryckbosch family, “ball is life” and “basketball never stops.” For Peter Ryckbosch and his mother Lisa, the game enhanced a relationship that stretches further than mother and son.
Even with all of their similarities, such as a tall stature and tearing their ACL’s, there is one major difference between the two: how they pronounce their last name.
While Lisa was playing basketball overseas in Belgium she met her husband, Bart Ryckbosch. When they returned to the states, she pronounced her last name as [rake-bush]. When she had her two sons Steven and Peter, they eventually decided to independently change it to [rick-bosh].
“It’s just an Americanized version of my father’s last name,” Peter said. “It’s not even easy for me to pronounce without butchering it sometimes because I don’t speak the language.”
Despite pronouncing their last name differently, Lisa and Peter share the same love for basketball and DePaul. But that love didn’t come easy. Peter has been around basketball his entire life. His mother not only played, but she also coached and currently, is the director of professional, corporate and community relations for the university.
Because of this lifestyle that centered around basketball, Lisa felt like Peter resented the game. However, Peter said he didn’t hate basketball, it just took him longer to accept the game.
“I never resented it. When I was younger, I definitely was annoyed with it,” Peter said. “So I never resented the game like that, I just wasn’t into like she was.”
For that reason, Lisa never influenced him to play basketball. She said she allowed him to play other sports. By the time Peter reached high school, he was playing football, basketball and even volleyball.
“I didn’t want to ever come across as pushing him into basketball because I felt like for anything you have to have that passion yourself,” Lisa said. “You have to have that love for the game, it can’t come from me that has to come from within.”
After his senior year at St. Ignatius, Peter earned a few D-2 and D-3 scholarship offers, but he had a desire to play Division I basketball. Since childhood, DePaul was always an option for him. Even though his mother Lisa worked for the university, he didn’t let that affect his decision negatively or positively, he said.
“Those are all factors, but I guess the thing that changed my viewpoint to come to DePaul was I didn’t want to have a regret later in life thinking like, how good I could have come if I went to DePaul,” Peter said.
Of course, Lisa was thrilled to have her son at a place she calls home and she knew that Peter would embrace what DePaul has to offer. But Peter’s basketball career started off rocky. As a walk-on to the Blue Demons, he rarely played his first two seasons. In his junior season, he tore his ACL. In the face of adversity, Peter maintained his goofy, hard working and straight-A record through the rehab process and even found a way to inspire the team on the bench.
“Last year it was kind of different. I physically couldn’t play and I guess I kind of accepted the role of just trying to encourage my teammates as much as possible and have fun with them at the same time,” Peter said. “That’s how the ‘Bench Mob’ grew to what it was.”
Forward Joe Hanel and two other teammates were a part of the “Bench Mob.” Their main goal was to help the team.
“We kind of wanted to just bring some energy to the bench. We weren’t playing, so we wanted to contribute something to the team,” Hanel said. “So we started coming up with these dumb skits or whatever and we would do it every time our team got a three and it kind of took on a life of it’s own.”
Peter and Hanel said it’s ironic that other colleges have been making headlines and ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 with their “Bench Mob.” They both said they were the “Godfathers” of the “Bench Mob” and are owed some of the spotlight.
“I say we deserve some recognition,” Peter said. “I’m saying if Monmouth gets an ESPN 30 for 30, I think we should be one of the “Bench Mobs” interviewed for it.
Through Peter’s ups and downs at DePaul, Lisa said she seen her son’s growth as an athlete and a student. She values their unique college experience and their relationship. There are not too many students who would enjoy being at college with their mother. But Peter said their relationship isn’t special because of basketball and DePaul, it’s always been a special bond.
“It’s really cool having my mom here. I can see her all the time. I can go home for a home-cooked meal or anything like that when I want,” Peter said. “It’s been really cool to have her to talk to anytime I want to pretty much, and to have her push me the same way she did while I was in high school. She’s right in the same building I’m always in everyday for practice.”
Lisa seconds that notion.
“That’s the beauty of being here together with him. It’s not like we spend every waking hour together at all, sometimes we won’t see each other a lot,” Lisa said. “But when something on his mind or when maybe I’m having a bad day, he’s like … let’s just go and have lunch. It may be 20 minutes we’re together, but it’s a beautiful thing.”
With only a year left at DePaul, Peter and Lisa would like to see the Blue Demons back in the tournament. That’s the dream, they both said. Yet, Lisa said whatever happens she will always be Peter’s mom.
“My job is to support him,” Lisa said. “I’m a basketball coach through and through, but when I’m in that role I’m just his mom, and I’m just there to support him.”