Chris Ryan was a prime contributor for Holliston High’s football team, helping the Panthers win a Tri Valley League title as a junior and a Sectional crown last fall.
Now, in the final season of his athletic career, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard-forward is striving to elevate the Panthers’ basketball team and restore its once-proud tradition.
During the last two basketball seasons, the 17-year-old Ryan played on teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs. “I really want to get this program back to the top,’’ Ryan said. “The players are eager to bring back a winning culture.’’
Ryan, who played tight end and finished his football career with 1,006 yards, receiving and 11 touchdowns, remains optimistic that basketball success is just around the corner.
“My goal this season is to qualify for the playoffs,’’ he said. “That’s realistic, because we’ve got talent, seven seniors are back and our new coach (Mark Champagne) has gotten his message across and is getting the best out of the players.’’
The Panthers may not achieve his playoff goal this season, but Ryan continues to battle relentlessly, because his personal objectives are all about enhancing the team. “I just want to be the best I can be, reach my potential and help others to reach theirs,’’ he emphasized.
At Local Town Pages deadline, the Panthers had a 3-4 record.
“Chris has a high compete level,’’ said Champagne, who previously guided Ashland High to a TVL championship. “He’s a terrific team player who’s athletic and all-around. He can score, pass and rebound, and he communicates well with the coaches. Unfortunately, he’s had to recover from any ankle injury in football, and that prohibited him from playing in three of our first seven games.’’
Against Ashland in Holliston’s seventh game of the season, Ryan played like he was pain-free, scoring 21 points and leading the Panthers to a blowout victory. He was passing effectively, playing solid defense, and scoring in close and on the perimeter.
Ryan’s strengths include a high basketball IQ, a physical presence, good court vision, speed and quickness. His best game and top thrill in basketball speak volumes about his offensive ability and reaffirm his statistical averages last year (18 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds).
“Against Norwood last season, I had five three-pointers in the first half and finished with 28 points,’’ he recalled. “I hit a three and sank three free throws at the end to help us win. My top thrill was against Nipmuc. As a sophomore, I scored eight points in the first half, but, trailing by three with two minutes to go, I connected on two three-pointers to help us win by three. That was thrilling because it showed I belonged.’’
Ryan respects his teammates, especially forward Noah Salem and guard Luke Campbell. “Noah is a good defensive player who’s athletic, can rebound, and run the floor,’’ Ryan said. “Luke works hard, gets steals, shoots well and defends. I also like Jordan Kasongo. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s an all-around, talented player who shoots effectively and finishes well around the basket. And, I like the way coach Champagne motivates his players. When he talks, kids listen.’’
Relying on a deliberate style offensively, Ryan prefers a more aggressive approach on defense. “I like to get all my teammates involved on offense,’’ he said. “I like passing the ball when I’m playing the point, but I can be aggressive driving to the hoop.’’
An intense competitor, Ryan doesn’t hesitate to emphasize the importance of winning when he’s discussing his athletic philosophy. “I hate to lose,’’ he said. “If you work hard in practice and reach your potential, then winning will follow. And, some valuable lessons I’ve learned in sports are resiliency, leadership, accountability, and playing through pain.’’
Ryan did his best playing with pain in football. He sprained his ankle in the victory over Canton in the Sectional last fall but re-injured it in the State semifinal against Swampscott. Losing to Swampscott cost the Panthers a trip to the Super Bowl.
“It was tough losing out on a chance to play at Gillette Stadium,’’ Ryan noted. “And, it was disappointing. We may have overlooked Swampscott after beating undefeated Canton.’’
Ryan’s future likely will include football. Nichols College is interested, and he’s also got UMass-Dartmouth, Western New England and Endicott on his list. An honor-roll student, Ryan is leaning towards majoring in sports management.
Ryan knows his athletic career at Holliston is nearing an end. “I’ll miss going to practice and competing with great teammates,’’ he said. “And, I’ll miss coach (Todd) Kiley. He runs an amazing program, works countless hours and his teams are always contenders for titles.’’
Ryan is acutely aware that anything can happen if the Panthers qualify for the basketball playoffs. “It would be great if opposing teams overlook us and we go on a run,’’ he offered. “I’m going to do all I can to get the most out of the rest of our games’’
A TVL all-star twice in football, Ryan was also an all-star last year in basketball. He’s a gifted athlete who missed out on two straight trips to the Super Bowl, after losing last fall to Swampscott and bowing to Scituate as a junior.
Post-season success in basketball would no doubt be the elixir that would be uplifting for Chris Ryan. He deserves that opportunity, because he’s a terrific ambassador for Holliston High athletics.