Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Notre Dame, Duke, Carolina, Michigan in Hunt for Matt Ryan
By ZACH SMART
Special to ZAGSBLOGMatt Ryan recalls long afternoons and nights spent between himself and the 10-foot driveway rim in his Cortlandt Manor home, a stone’s skip from Main Street.
Before he was one of the country’s most hotly-pursued prospects, with high-majors steadily upping their interest in the 6-foot-7, 220-pound kick-out shooter, Ryan piled up shots for hours and hours and hours, backing up beyond his own chalk-inscribed 3-point line.
Encased in the Duke jersey of J.J. Redick, Ryan’s boyhood idol,
countless shooting sessions were sliced short when his mother, Laurie Ryan, called him inside to complete homework.
Once threatening to confiscate his lone basketball if he didn’t hurry inside, Ryan recalls storming into the front door as if the Devil was chasing him.
“When I was learning the game, all I could do was shoot and pull off cross-overs,” Ryan said.
“Literally throughout third grade I went to non-stop camps and clinics. If you ask my coaches and teammates from elementary school, they’ll tell you I used to come down and pull up from inside half court. I just
loved shooting the basketball. I wanted to keep getting better and model my shot after J.J. (Redick).”
Ryan’s ahead-of-his-years game grew as rapidly as his Division-I interest the past two seasons.
By seventh grade, Ryan was 5-foot-10 and the starting point guard for Hen Hud’s J.V. team. Playing for New Heights on the AAU circuit his freshman and sophomore seasons accelerated Ryan’s maturation process, preparing him against the nation’s elite.
His sophomore year at Iona Prep, Ryan stretched out defenses with limitless, NBA-area range that had Dan Majerle and Casey Jacobsen comparisons floating around gyms. Ryan averaged 18 points, six boards, and three assists, the centerpiece of a young core in 2012-13.
Eight games into his junior year, Ryan’s blend of of stats (19 PPG, 8RPG, 4RPG), academics (3.8 GPA, Honor Roll, no grade lower than a 92 in PreCalc) and fearless range turned moderate interest from Princeton, George Mason, Davidson, and UPenn into heavy hounding from Duke, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Michigan, Marquette and myriad others.
Ryan’s ability to quickly deposit Ty Jerome and Tom Capuano’s dishes into deft 3-point grenades rendered him a linchpin in Vic Quirolo’s system, which emphasizes fluid ball movement and spacing.
Following a 24-point performance in a 56-46 victory over Spring Valley in the Slam Dunk Challenge, which saw Ryan bag Tournament MVP honors, Ryan seemed to be nearing the periphery of basketball nirvana.
The Gaels’ game plan, devised to stall Spring Valley’s Rickey McGill, Kai Mitchell, and Jy’Quan Boykin was effective. The steady interest in Ryan kept rising. Bigger schools, with national fanfare and star-encrusted recruiting classes, kept surfacing.
Then, the road to success hit a giant pothole.
A depressing episode, one Ryan hopes to forget and vows never never revisit, emerged.
Impingment with torn labrums on both sides forced Ryan to shut it down for the season.
His spirits were dampened.
Those intense flames of excitement, evident from the days when Ryan rushed home to shovel snow out of his driveway and fire up a steady salvo of shots, dwindled for the first time ever.
The last three months, Ryan’s competitive edge has grown. He’s stoked with confidence and a desire to prove he’s as good as projected.
Ryan loathes ranking systems.
He rarely doles out praise.
Nothing infuriates him as much as guys taking plays off or sleepwalking through plays, he explained.
While he was ensconced on the bench, draped in street clothes and on a hiatus from his livelihood, Ryan burned and ached inside.
After two surgeries with Dr. Bryan Kelly, a Manhattan-based arthroscopic hip surgeon, the pain is gone.
Kelly performed the same surgery on former Kennedy Catholic and Providence star Donnie McGrath two years ago.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.