Monday, December 15, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Matt Ryan, Iona Prep

It's only fitting that Iona Prep senior Matt Ryan became more enamored with the game during sharpshooter J.J. Redick's illustrious era at Duke.

Eternally tied to Redick, images of the famed Blue Devil rifling in deep 3-pointers, rolling off screens and firing, and throwing a patented shot fake still circulate in Ryan's mind.

Like Redick, Ryan's game is identified with NBA area range. Like Redick, Ryan can reel off a individual spurt after canning 2-3 straight shots, a quick groove urging on an emotional swagger.

Like Redick, Ryan has no problem sprinkling a little trash talk or terse words on the court, should the beef start to cook. And like Redick, Ryan's on a mad dash to dispel the notion he's a "soft shooter."

How's this for growing up fast: By the time Ryan was eight, he stopped playing age-appropriate. By age 12, he copped a starting job on Hen Hud's J.V. team as a 5-foot-10 point guard. By 15, he earned his first full scholarship offer.

Ryan's regimented ways make him a bit more independent than most high school kids. Since he was little, Ryan was warned to steer clear of followers. Playing for the Westchester Hawks on the AAU circuit, Iona Prep had a significant recruiting tool for Ryan.

 The County Championships were played at the Gaels' home court, where Ryan's shooting became a portent of things to come.

Back to the future.

Ryan adjusted quickly on the fly to high-profile teammates Ty Jerome and Tom Capuano, both of whom played together since the third grade.

Ryan's frustration snowballed last year, as a debilitating torn labrum in both hips. After two surgeries with Dr. Bryan Kelly, a Manhattan-based arthroscopic hip surgeon, the pain is gone. The residual effects are there, albeit they haven't affected his play.

The Notre Dame-signee felt helpless on some nights last season, sweating profusely through a white tailored shirt while relegated to the role of spectator.

In a way, however, it's given Ryan perspective. He now knows how fragile and uncertain a career can really be. He talks about how moments can zip by in blink-quick style and how nothing is ever promised on the court.

The deceptively quick release and pure stroke have rendered the 6-foot-7 Ryan a chore to guard. Studying film and making daily strides to diversify his overall scoring package, Ryan has less of a robotic game.

His focus is on playing more instinctively, putting the ball on the deck more and making his teammates beneficiaries of his presence.

Ryan On Getting Back In Shape

It all goes back to the summer. I did hundreds of miles on stationary bikes from when I had surgery in March until the end of the summer. I swam a lot and did a lot exercises in the pool, which definitely helped. With my jumper, I was outside the week after surgery. I was shooting on my own or with my brother getting my rebounds. Losing my jumper was never a worry of mine.

On Expanding His Game

Getting 10 assists (in a win against Saunders) was a lot of fun. I pride myself on having a high IQ and its only best for my team if I use my skill-set in ways other than scoring. I think I've been displaying different parts of my game like going to the basket against St. Ray's and also hitting stepback jumpers, post-up shots, and dealing out a lot of assists. Me working out and getting stronger has definitely helped my post-up game.

On The Week In review

A few things really hurt us against St. Ray's. I would really like to point out how much potential this kid Sydney Wilson has. I played his jump shot modestly and he bagged three of them, that's a testament to the work he's put in.

For us, we shot 3-for-22 from 3-point range. That just isn't us. It can't happen again. It won't happen again. Anyone who said we lost because we didn't hit our threes just doesn't have an idea of how that game went, because we were winning for most of the game.

Second, our rebounding was not where it needed to be and I know I have to step up personally in that area. Thirdly, our transition game was nowhere to be found and we made up for that against Saunders on Saturday.

On Teammates Ty Jerome and Tom Capuano

Ty and Tom have been great carrying the load when teams do not let me catch the ball. Us three are really tight friends who yell at each other and criticize each other to the extreme, but remain best friends the next day.

A lot of kids in high school can't do that and will take criticism very personally. We know that anything we say to each other is to either motivate or help each other in some way.