Ryan’s Leadership Qualities a Major Plus for BHS Quintet
BHS senior Michael Ryan
Bulletin Sports Editor
Michael Ryan has all of the qualities to be Bellingham High’s primary leader in basketball.
Consider what the Blackhawks’ captain has in mind when objectives and priorities for the 2014-15 team are up for discussion. “My main focus is to help my teammates and lead by example,’’ Ryan said. “It’s also important to remember that we’re playing basketball because we enjoy it. It’s got to be fun with minimal stress. Our team lacks size and experience this season, but we’ll rely on a solid work ethic and our quickness to keep us in games. As for me, I’m striving to improve my rebounding and to make shots at crucial times.’’
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior was “Mr. Clutch’’ when games were on the line last year. Playing guard and forward, he connected on a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Dover-Sherborn, which had led by two points, and he sank a three-point shot with three seconds to go against Medfield in overtime, giving the Blackhawks a one-point triumph.
“I love situations where there’s pressure to make a big shot,’’ Ryan (pictured above) emphasized. “I like it when coaches and players rely on me to take a key shot. I just try to get to my spot, elude defenders and fire a three if that’s what’s needed.’’
Ryan also displayed grace under pressure in baseball last spring when he delivered on two occasions in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over North Reading in the state semifinals. The catcher picked off a North Reading player at third with the bases loaded in extra innings, snuffing out a rally. In the bottom of the eighth, he led off with a double, and pinch runner Jared Abernethy later scored the winning run. That propelled Bellingham into the finals, where it won its first state crown.
“Being part of a state championship team is my top thrill at Bellingham,’’ he said. “It was an unbelievable run with a great group of guys, basically my second family. Everyone was committed, and all of us focused on team-first goals.’’
Ryan, who averaged 10 points and six rebounds last year, hit .303 in baseball with 14 RBIs. He’s been coached by T.J. Chiappone in both sports and credits his success to the veteran mentor. “Coach Chiappone knows both sports, and he’s a terrific motivator,’’ Ryan said. “This year’s basketball team isn’t very experienced, but he’ll find a way to offset any of our deficiencies. He guided us to nine wins last year after only two the previous season. What’s important is that his competitive style rubs off. His main interest is seeing us improve.’’
If a tournament berth is in the cards for the Blackhawks, Ryan, who was a Tri Valley League all-star last year, will have to keep elevating his game. He’ll also need help, but he’s sure that will come from several sources. And that’s just what happened in Bellingham’s season opener against Millis. Ryan scored 12 points, Ed Sena connected for 24 and Paul Beera had 14 in a 70-54 Blackhawk victory. “Ed can play center or forward,’’ Ryan noted. “He can jump, and he’s athletic and explosive with the ball. Paul is a good outside shooter who can dribble well, and Stephen Martinis is a good all-around player who can pass effectively.’’
Ryan, who has started games in all four of his varsity seasons, could be used at center, a position he played as a middle-school student. “Actually, I welcome the idea. It’s fun to post-up and also be in position to get rebounds,’’ Ryan said. “It’s a chance to box out, get physical and help the team at another position. It’s a challenge I’ll gladly accept.’’
Chiappone admires Ryan’s mature approach, and he’s acutely aware that his role will have some added responsibilities. “Michael is capable of playing in the low post and becoming a better rebounder,’’ Chiappone said. “He’s proven he can hit big shots, and he’s comfortable with that. This season we’ll rely on him for added rebounds and vocal leadership.’’
A state champion in baseball, Ryan added a second Massachusetts crown to his resume when he helped the Milford Legion baseball team advance from the state tourney to the regionals, where Milford fell short by one game of going to the national world series in North Carolina.
“Winning two state titles in one year is almost insane,’’ Ryan said. “Those kinds of results don’t happen very often.’’
A good student, Ryan plans to attend Plymouth State in New Hampshire next fall, where he’ll major in sports management and play baseball. “I’ve been to the campus and met the coach and the team,’’ Ryan said. “The coach is new and reminds me of coach Chiappone.’’
Calling his parents (Jeff and Karen) role models for their encouragement, Ryan lists Derek Jeter as his favorite in baseball and Kevin Garnett as his top hoop player. “You have to admire Jeter’s work ethic,’’ Ryan said, “and Garnett is so motivated.’’
So, too, is Ryan, whose athletic tenets include being competitive, having fun and playing because of “love for the game.’’
Michael Ryan’s last game for Bellingham High will be in the spring on a diamond, but his passion for two sports makes him a real gem.