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Alumni Spotlight - Ryan Kittleson '12

Like most young basketball players, Billings West’s Ryan Kittleson had dreams of someday landing a job in the National Basketball Association. Five years in the Dickinson State University program led to his dream coming true, only not in the traditional way.

Kittleson, a 2012 DSU graduate, has been program director, lead trainer and a coach for The National Basketball Academy in Orlando, Florida, since 2013. In just the last two years, Kittleson became city director for the city of Orlando, running 25 summer camps contracted by the Orlando Magic.

“Growing up, I wanted to be in the NBA,” Kittleson said. “When you realize you’re not going to make it that far, it was high school coach, and when I was in college, it was college coach. When this opportunity came, it’s full-time basketball, in the gym, coaching and working with players. It’s a place I never thought I would be, but I absolutely love it. It’s something I can do the rest of my life.”

Kittleson joined the DSU program at the same time current DSU Heritage Foundation Executive Director, Ty Orton, became the Hawks’ Head Men’s Basketball Coach. He redshirted one year and played the final four as DSU bounced around from the Dakota Athletic Conference to the Frontier Conference, and finally as an independent while transitioning to the North Star Athletic Association.

“It was good,” Kittleson recalled. “For four straight years we were conference runners-up. I was fortunate enough to have Coach Orton there and the lessons he instilled in us – hard work and teamwork – that I teach to the people I coach now.”

Kittleson went to Orlando in the summer of 2012 then assisted Orton at DSU for a season while looking for a grad assistant position. Orton put Kittleson in touch with former McCook Community College coach and TNBA Director of Operations Jack Lutzeier, who invited Kittleson to Orlando to run summer camps and a career was born.

“Once I was down here, I really loved it. They liked me and offered me a position in January 2013,” Kittleson said. “The basketball world is small and relationships are a big thing.”

Kittleson’s camps train a wide variety of athletes. TNBA works with about 2,000 athletes each summer.  Kittleson oversees the entire operation, including four Junior Magic Basketball leagues for kids in grades 1-11. He directs seven girls’ traveling teams for grades 4-11 and 18 boys’ teams for grades 3-11.

His camps employ many Magic players and coaches. “It’s big. We’ve grown tremendously and been partners with them since 2008,” Kittleson said. “Within the NBA, we’re the longest-standing partners with any team.

“When get into the AAU travel teams, that’s more of the elite level we work with,” Kittleson added. “I coached the first nine years on the boys’ side, high school teams to Las Vegas, Washington, New Orleans (to name a few). Two years ago, I shifted to the girls’ side. I coach one of the seven teams, but I oversee all the programs.”



Kittleson credits his time at DSU with helping him achieve a lifelong dream job. “The time at DSU has a huge impact,” he said. “I cherish my time at DSU. It was a struggle at time; you’re a young kid, you leave home. But the community of Dickinson and the students and staff, and obviously the team and coaches, had a huge impact. The whole DSU spirit and the community feel was a blessing. I’m so thankful I ended up at DSU and stayed as long as I did.” 






By Scooter Pursley

DSU Heritage Foundation Communication Specialist

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