Open Gym: Archbishop Ryan – (Philly Catholic League) –

A year removed from advancing to the PIAA Class 6A Final Four the Raiders found themselves struggling in 2017-18 as they never seemed to find an identity during the season. Despite their struggles they managed to make the Catholic League playoffs and earn a home game in the process. When people say be careful what you wish for I'm guessing nobody thought that drawing long time league doormat Cardinal O'Hara in the first round wasn't what Ryan was wishing for but that wish turned into a nightmare as O'Hara jumped out to an early lead and coasted home with a 58-47 win that was every bit the eleven point spread that was the final score. All their problems from the whole season seemed to manifest themselves in this contest and as I was a witness to the carnage I can say without question that it was not at all what the Ryan faithful expected and I'm sure HC Joe Zeglinski was a bit surprised as well as he had beaten O'Hara in their season meeting back in January. This is a new year however and this team looks completely different even with plenty of returnees on hand so we shall see if they have learned from last season and are focused on changing the dynamic from a year ago.

The Backcourt:

In essence this years version of the Ryan Raiders is all guards from a practical standpoint but some guys will fill some frontcourt roles to balance the floor. What I've seen of this team though suggests that they move the ball quickly and efficiently setting up wide open looks and quick hitting layups. 6'0' '19 Jaquill Stone is a catalyst for that fast attack play that Ryan will use this year as he can motor end to end with a solid handle and ever improving court vision to spot open teammates and deliver crisp feeds to give them scoring opportunities. He can also create offense with his quick slashing moves to the cup and when open he can knock down perimeter shots with an improving jump shot. He has always been a tough on ball defender and with his quick hands and tremendous foot speed he can be a nightmare for opposing ball handlers. He will benefit from having a more mobile 6'5' '19 Colin Reed alongside him as he has started to expand his one dimensional game to include driving to the basket and finishing when he gets there. He has always been a standout shooter who seemed hampered with his ability to create off the bounce but clearly he's been working to strengthen his offensive arsenal and it looks like he's succeeded. 6'1' '19 Jerry Weiss has been a bit player these past few years while patiently waiting for his chance to shine and if what I've seen this month is any indication of how he'll slot in this year then Coach Zeglinski will have no worries when he goes to the bench to insert him in the game. He has great feel for getting the ball to his teammates and his passes are incredibly accurate and his ball handling ability is also top notch as he seems unfazed by pressure defenses. He's a pass first PG who doesn't force shots just to score the basketball and he has shown himself to be a credible and scrappy defender. Another senior who should contribute is 6'0' '19 Mekhi Lang who has good speed and a solid handle who can break pressure and set up his teammates. His offensive game is competent and he also plays good defense. 5'10' '21 Dom Vazquez has been in a boot this month but he also will be a factor for this team as he has a smooth jump shot with range to the arc and a good feel for the lead guard role as he can pass the ball with precision and smarts.

The Frontcourt:

As I mentioned earlier frontcourt on this roster might be one player who truly embraces the role of big man so if your talking frontcourt as far as Ryan is concerned you have to start with 6'4' '19 Amin Bryant. Bryant in some ways is an enigma as he really is a two guard except he doesn't possess a decent perimeter jump shot but can definitely get to the basket with he-man type drives and bullish moves when in proximity of the hole. He is also one tough customer as a rebounder as he uses his strong upper frame to gain position and outsmart opponents to grab missed shots. He is a very good defender as well with the ability to keep his man in front of him and force him away from his comfort zones. His passing game has really come along in accordance with what Ryan wants to do and he seems willing to play his part in the teams quest to return to the top of the league standings. That one true big I was talking about is 6'4' '21 Taleeq Robbins who at the moment is tied up with football. He's a big bodied young man who moves well for his size and is surprisingly agile when he moves to the basket. While he can score it from the block with power moves he has been known to shoot a few jumpers as well and his form is not half bad. He's a competent rebounder and defender who takes up space in the paint and he sets some pretty mean screens when called upon. 6'4' '21 Aaron Lemon-Warren is another young guy who has been impressive in the early going with his solid body control moves to the basket and his pullup jumper that was quite effective at the West Chester Big 64. He's a high level athlete who is just scratching the surface of how good he can be and I like his upside as a player. While he projects as more of a two guard the way this team will play combined with his athleticism he can help the team a great deal playing in the frontcourt. Finally we get to their Lithuanian import 6'4 '' Geeiminas Mikseckas another probable guard who I'm listing here because quite frankly he's so versatile. He has a terrific outside jumper with deep range but is tough when getting to the hole. He is very effective off the catch from the midrange and he is a gifted passer who sees the floor like a PG and can deliver the ball to open teammates with a little zip to them. He isn't a ball handling whiz but he has the IQ to keep it to one or two dribbles before making his decision to set up a teammate or get an open look. This Raider squad has lots of interchangeable parts and it appears that Coach Zeglinski is quite happy with the multiple options he has at his disposal this coming season.

Outlook:

With the rarity of some players transferring out of the Catholic league and also the fact that plenty of solid players graduated last year I can see Ryan finishing in the top 4 in the standings. This teams ability to move the ball and consistently get good looks at the basket is impressive and that should culminate in plenty of notches in the win column. The goal for the Raiders is obviously to win the league but without a true big that will take a complete buy in from the roster to give the proverbial 110% to make that happen. I do believe that they have the talent to make it back to the fabled Palestra for the league Semi-finals and if they do I wouldn't consider it a shock. That being said I also think that they are capable of making a strong run in the 6A bracket in states this year even with all the solid teams that make up that bracket and while I don't think they can win the state title a lot will depend on their draw and whether some crazy upsets shake up the bracket. Either way I like this Ryan team and I'm sure they just want to erase the memory of last season's debacle and get back to the Palestra and just go from there.