QV graduate DeAnn Ryan shines in front of family and friends
Basketball players can sometimes go into a slump where nothing seems to go right. Whether they can't find the basket, grab the rebound or hit a shot from the line, athletes' confidence takes a blow during a cold spell.
But a single big performance can turn it all around and help the athlete find his or her mojo.
For Berea College freshman guard DeAnn Ryan, that big moment came in front of friends and family.
The Quaker Valley graduate returned to Western Pennsylvania on Feb. 9 as the Mountaineers upset Point Park, 49-48. Ryan scored the winning layup with seven seconds to go after her squad battled back from a 16-point deficit.
“I was a little nervous, because it was the first game most of my family has seen me play in college,” Ryan said. “My coach had the confidence in me to keep me in late in the game. I got the ball with 15 seconds left. I took it in and didn't think anything of it. Then I saw the ball go through the hoop.
“It is one of the best experiences I have had playing. It definitely helped my confidence.”
It was a rare home loss for Point Park, which is 23-3 at the CCAC-South gymnasium over the past two seasons.
While it was a big moment for Ryan, it was even bigger for the Mountaineers. Point Park is the top team in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and the win gave Berea momentum to close the season strong.
Ryan has continued improving her game since arriving on campus, located 37 miles south of Lexington. Berea coach Terence Brooks said Ryan was put in as a point guard early in the season due to injuries. While she struggled at the point, she has excelled after being moved back into a shooting guard role.
“She is a great shooter,” Brooks said. “And she has a deadly step-back move. (Ryan) has so much knowledge of the game.”
Ryan has averaged four points off the bench. She has hit double figures four times this season, including a season-high 15 in a 75-40 win over Midway on Jan. 25.
Brooks said Ryan has struggled with confidence during her freshman season. The guard agreed with the critique and said she is becoming more comfortable against players who are more experienced and bigger — Ryan is only 5-foot-4.
“The coaching staff would like to see (Ryan) become more vocal and be more assertive throughout the remainder of her career,” Brooks said.
In addition to her academic workload — Ryan hopes to pursue a job in the medical field — and basketball, Ryan must maintain a job. All students at Berea must work an on-campus job for 10-15 hours a week.
“During high school, I would be in the gym putting 500 shots up a day,” Ryan said. “There isn't much free time now. You have to stay focused and get in the gym as much as you can.
“I have classes from 8 to 5, then practice usually 6 to 8, then I have to spend most of my night doing homework. Then the next day you start all over again.”
Despite having nine underclassmen on its roster, Berea clinched a home game in the KIAC tournament. The Mountaineers struggled early this season, but the team has won seven of its past 10 conference games to clinch home-court advantage.
Berea is in fourth with an 8-7 conference mark, behind only Point Park (10-4), Asbury (9-4) and Alice Lloyd (9-5).
“We have a great opportunity to finish strong,” Ryan said. “There are teams above us in the standings we have beat. It gives us hope we can definitely make a strong run at the end of the season. We have the confidence that we can win the conference tournament and make nationals.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.