IN THE SPOTLIGHT
While patrolling the top of New Trier’s daunting 1-3-1 half-court trap, Griffin Ryan can look — and be — pretty menacing.
He excels there.
The 6-foot-5 senior, who possesses a condor-like wingspan, is agile and swift on his feet. And, having a brain for the game, he’s as sharp as a tack.
Opposing guards, no doubt, find him ruthless and relentless.
He never stops bringing the pressure.
Going up against him has to be disconcerting.
But on Jan. 27, in a War on the Shore game against St. Viator at Loyola Academy, Ryan showed his “other side”.
While going full-bore and trying to force a turnover against the St. Viator backcourt midway through the second quarter, Ryan kicked a pass — in mid-air — and watched the ball skip to the other end of the court and settle under the basket.
But, instead of admiring his long blast, he went and retrieved the ball and then handed it to one of the referees.
Now, who does that?
Uh, Gentleman Griff.
“No one was going after it, so I did,” said Ryan.
“Might as well,” he added. “Since I was the one who kicked it.”
Teammate Spencer Boehm wasn’t surprised.
“That’s him,” said Boehm. “He’s always going to do the right thing.
“I’d have to say that he’s one of the nicest persons that I know,” he added. “He’s one of those guys who would do anything for you.”
But Ryan, a two-year starter for the Trevians, is more than just a class act.
Just ask … a perfect stranger.
Moments after NT’s 62-48 win over the 16-5 Lions, Ryan was stopped by Terry Head, who coaches hoops for Clark High School in Chicago, in a hallway at LA.
Head, who also is the former head coach at Foreman High School and founder/director of the Illinois Heat AAU program, had an “offer” for Ryan.
He wanted to personally invite the underrated Trevian to participate in the eighth annual Illinois Unsigned Senior and Junior Exposure College Camp, which will be held at Judson College on March 18.
“I thought he was the best player on the court today,” said Head. “I’ve sent a lot of kids to the next level since 1991. So, I know talent.
“And he’s a good one,” Head emphasized.
Ryan is getting looks. He will end up playing college hoops somewhere. He’s considering several Division III schools, including the University of Chicago.
Head, however, believes that Ryan is being under-recruited.
“I think a lot of college coaches have slept on him,” said Head. “He’s [at least] a solid Division II kid.”
“He makes good decisions on the court,” he added. “He’s got good hands. Good feet. And he shoots the ball well.”
Ryan’s stat count against St. Viator was fairly typical. He seldom came out of the game and ended up with 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal. He also took a charge.
New Trier head coach Scott Fricke always has been impressed with Ryan’s character and multifacetedness.
“He does so many things on the court that don’t show up on the stat sheet or in the paper,” said Fricke. “He’s got so many intangibles.”
In some systems, Ryan would be the guy.
“He can score,” Fricke said. “He put up 28 points in a [MLK tournament] game at Rockford. But our team is full of guys who don’t care who scores. And Ryan is one of them.”
That unselfishness is an attractive quality.
“That’s what I like about him,” said Head. “He’s not trying to be flashy. And that makes him even better.
“Flashy guys try to do too much,” the coach added. “You need guys on your team who aren’t looking to be the stars. He’s a valuable glue guy.”
New Trier, which has won seven straight games, currently is sporting a 17-3 record. And Ryan has been instrumental in the team’s success.
One of his best offensive plays against St. Viator came just before the second-quarter buzzer sounded. Ryan took a pass on the right wing, drove to the basket, shook off a defender, raised up and banked in a 12-footer.
It was textbook.
It was timely.
Ryan’s buzzer-beater brought an end to St. Viator’s 13-0 run. And it trimmed the Lions’ lead to five points with 16 minutes to play.
“I actually wasn’t supposed to take the shot,” confessed Ryan, who played his AAU ball with Hoops4Health and RMG Hoops. “I was supposed to kick it out to Andrew [Kirkpatrick]. He was supposed to take the last shot.”
So much for the best-laid plans of mice and men.
The rest of the game went awry — for St. Viator.
Sparked by Ryan, who tallied eight of his 10 points in the second half, the Trevians put together a 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter and an 11-0 at the end of the game. They ended up winning the game going away.