Ryan leads Brock to season-opening win
The Brock men’s basketball team opened its regular season with an 83-58 victory over the visiting Western Mustangs. Photo by BERNIE PUCHALSKI
When Jim Baron retired as head coach of the Canisius Golden Griffs NCAA Division 1 basketball program, Cassidy Ryan decided to go elsewhere.
The 22-year-old Mississauga native looked at transferring to the University of Houston or the University of Southern Florida but decided he didn’t want to sit out a year. He turned his thoughts to Canada and after considering Brock and Ryerson, he chose the St. Catharines university and Charles Kissi’s basketball program.
“The coach was pretty good at getting me,” Ryan said Wednesday, after scoring 22 points to lead Brock to a 83-58 season-opening victory over the visiting Western Mustangs. “I met him once for lunch and he told me that he really didn’t need me but I would help them a lot.
“They were a good team before I got here and I just wanted to come to a program that was winning and try to elevate them even more.”
In his first season, he struggled with Kissi’s practices.
“In the States, it is really different because practices are really regulated and you can only go two hours a day and only so many hours a week,” the 6-foot-7 forward said. “But here, he likes to run and we ran a lot. I hated him last year and I was dying in practice.”
By the end of the season, Ryan’s fitness level was much improved and he continued to work on that in the off-season.
“This year, I knew I was going to play a lot more and I made sure I was in shape,” the physical education student said. “I worked with the strength and conditioning coach a lot in the summer so I could play 30 minutes a game.”
Kissi said Ryan has improved leaps and bounds since first arriving at Brock.
“He had a little bit of the mentality that he came from the States and a Division 1 program and this was going to be a lot easier,” he said. “He soon realized it’s as good if not better and once he started to humble himself and transform his game, he became an unbelievable player.”
In comparing university basketball in Canada and the States, Ryan said there’s few differences.
“The skill level is exactly the same and I think the guys here shoot better from the three-point line,” he said. “I was at 44 per cent and I was one of the best shooters at my old school and coming here I couldn’t shoot a friggin’ three because the three-point line was so far.”
The main difference is the size and athleticism of the players.
“Guards over there are 6-foot-3 and athletic while our guard Tyler is only six foot,” Ryan said. “He’s athletic but the size of the guys is much different over there.”
The win over Western Wednesday was the first step in the team’s goal to win Brock’s third national championship. After defeating third-ranked Ottawa last year in the Ontario University Athletics’ bronze-medal game, Ryan and the rest of his teammates were convinced they had punched their ticket to the U Sports Final Eight.
“We thought it was a for sure thing and we celebrated like we were going,” he said. “It was a slap in the face that we weren’t invited.”
The Badgers have already beaten Ryerson and Calgary in the preseason, teams that were at nationals this spring, and they realize every game could mean the difference between going to nationals and being disappointed again.
“We lost to Dal (Dalhousie) in preseason and that hurt us and we lost to Nipissing which really hurt us,” Ryan said of last season. “It’s win every game now.”
That mantra started Wednesday versus the Mustangs.
“Even this morning, we were saying that we couldn’t take Western for granted,” Ryan said. “If we lose tonight, that could be the end of our season. That has been our mission statement in practice.”
Kissi wasn’t overly thrilled with his team’s 25-point victory.
“It was a first game,” he said twice. “There was probably a little bit of nerves because our crowd can be intimidating but it’s a great environment to play in.”
Kissi felt his team did enough things right to win.
“We still have to get better,” he said. “We have a long way and 23 more games to go.”
Badgers 83 Mustangs 58
BPSN Star of the Game: Brock’s Cassidy Ryan with 22 points and six rebounds.
For the Brock Badgers: Ryan 22; Dani Elgadi 14; Kacius Small-Martin 11; Johneil Simpson and Tyler Brown 9
For the Western Mustangs: Omar Shiddo and Julian Walker 9.
Game stats: Rebounds: BB 36, UWO 37. Turnovers: BB 24, UWO 20. Shooting percentage: BB 54.2, UWO 28.4. Free throws: BB 10-14, UWO 14-25. Scoring by quarters: BB 19-24-18-22=83, UWO 11-16-17-14=58.
Up next: Brock hosts Laurier Saturday at 4 p.m.