The San Francisco State University men’s basketball team is making competitors look up — both on the scoreboard and in a literal sense. Seven-foot centers Ryne Williams and Tyler Jackson anchor the Gators’ frontcourt in their fourth straight winning season.
It is extremely rare for a Division II school such as SF State to carry even a single 7-footer, head coach Vince Inglima says. “We have a 7-foot center on the court every minute of the game. Both Ryne and Tyler have found the right home where they can thrive.”
Williams, a double major in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) and History, stands 7 feet tall. A senior and a team captain, he leads the Gators with 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He also interns at Bay Area sports radio station 95.7-FM “The Game.”
Jackson, a 7-foot 2-inch junior majoring in Cinema, transferred to SF State last year from University of California, Santa Barbara. He averages 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Williams and Jackson recently discussed their college careers, ranging from the court to the classroom. This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What kind of reactions do you get from other students about your height?
Ryne Williams: You walk into class and automatically you have eyes on you. Everybody’s like, “Holy cow, this dude is like 7-foot or whatever.” You get used to it when you’re as tall as Tyler and I. It’s even better when we are together, when we’re at the mall with some of the guys.
Tyler Jackson: People break their necks and turn around when we pass them. A couple times people asked if I play for the Warriors.
Why did you choose your majors?
TJ: [I enjoy] film in general, storytelling, both fiction and nonfiction. You can tell any number of stories. You can have different directorial aspects and have a whole different spin on a film.
RW: It kind of came to me. I was watching a Dodgers game and I made a comment on the game. Then 10 seconds later, one of the announcers said the exact same thing on the air. It clicked. My mom mentioned, “Why don’t you look at broadcasting?” Obviously, my huge passion for sports carried over into that.
How does being a student-athlete help you in your studies? And vice versa, how does being a student in the arts help you in your athletics?
TJ: Basketball has taken me to a lot of places, literally — different states across America. I feel like having a wide perspective on life itself is great if you’re going into storytelling.
RW: Basketball is a nice break. It’s almost a release from your studies. For two to four hours a day, you’re completely locked in on basketball. That’s all you’re thinking about. It gives you that time to reset. Then you have your space when you get home. It’s like, “OK, time to lock in, time to study.”
Any particular faculty members here at San Francisco State who have been a big influence on you?
RW: Jeff Jacoby has been a great help in terms of refining my radio skills. I bring my demos in to him, and he listens in and gives them critiques.
Also, a [retired] faculty member, Marty Gonzalez, who’s the weekend anchor at KRON [Channel 4]. He was one of the main reasons why I ended up coming here. Took me on a tour of KRON before I’d even committed to SF State. Showed me around the campus and convinced me that the BECA Department had everything that I needed to be a great sports broadcaster.
TJ: I wouldn’t say one specific faculty member, but [after transferring] last year there was a lot going on. I had to basically restart my major, and I was trying to catch up. Every professor I had was super understanding and super helpful whenever I came to them with questions. That meant a lot to me because last fall semester was hectic for me.
What are your future goals?
TJ: I haven’t completely narrowed down specifically what I want to do, but I know it’s something behind the scenes — either writing or directorial work. Obviously, it’s not a straight shot with most cinema careers; you’re not going to direct the next summer blockbuster three years out of college. But I’m taking it a step at a time right now.
I definitely want to see how far I can take it with basketball because it’s something I love. But, again, if it were to end tomorrow, I would be satisfied with where it’s taken me, the connections I’ve made and the places I’ve gone with it.
RW: My goal with broadcasting is to ultimately be a radio host. I love radio. Everybody says it’s dying, but I think it’s thriving to be honest.
I’m also pursuing basketball, hopefully to play professionally and see where it takes me. You only get one shot at it. I’ll pursue all avenues I can. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll move back and focus on broadcasting.
— Matt Itelson
- Gators Men’s Basketball
- KSFS radio
- Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department
- School of Cinema
- History Department
Photo: Gator centers Ryne Williams (left) and Tyler Jackson. Photo by Sreang Hok.