There aren’t many days that go by without sophomore guard Ryan Carney shooting a basketball. The 21-year-old has spent hours every day since elementary school working on his game.
His hard work paid off this past season, when he helped Bridgewater State University defeat Fitchburg State in the league championship game, 77-72. Ryan, who averaged 12.3 points per game on the season, contributed a strong performance, with 19 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists on 6 of 12 shooting in the contest.
“It all started right here,” Ryan said as he smiled proudly at the concrete mini basketball court in his backyard. On one end was an old rusty rim with a ripped net hanging by a few strings. On the other end of the court was a stable in-ground hoop with a clear backboard and full, white net. Three worn-out Spalding basketballs lay scattered on the nearby grass.
It was here since fourth grade, where spent five to six days a week playing games with his friends and doing full-court drills by himself. He gives credit for his shooting ability to the drills he would do for hours after school. It was his idea of fun.
“I would shoot a deep three and then turn around and shoot another one on the other hoop. When I got tired of that, I would just practice moves that I saw my favorite NBA players do,” he said.
Ryan wouldn’t always be alone though. His father, Bob Carney, a standout kicker for the class of 1982 Cambridge High School football team, was always more than willing to help his son improve his game. Mr. Carney would rebound for his son and then occasionally give him a challenge in a game of Around the World. He also coached Ryan’s travel basketball team for three years until Ryan was in sixth grade.
Ryan attributes his ability to finish at the rim to when he would play on the concrete court with his older brother Tim, 28, and his friends.
“I would always play with them because it was better competition. I had to learn how to play against taller players my whole life,” said Ryan, who was a former Oliver Ames high school standout. “It’s easier to get a bucket now because I grew my sophomore year of high school,” he added, referring to the four-inch growth spurt that helped him to his current height of 6 feet, 2 inches.
If there is anything that Ryan has always been, it’s a gym rat. He also improved his basketball playing with friends from within his league at local gyms such as Mass Premier Courts in Foxboro and the Easton YMCA in the center of town.
“I’ve worked so hard because I’ve always wanted to win. Besides a couple of AAU weekend tournament championships, I never really won a title with my middle or high school teams. I think that’s why this championship means a lot to me,” he said.
The soft tone in his voice when he talks about the big game made it clear how important it was to win his first championship. Ryan mentioned that the feat was a result of working hard all season long. The Bears had players-only practices on off-days and players-only walkthroughs on game days.
As for next season? Ryan plans on winning another championship. When asked about the likelihood of the Bears repeating, he was quick to say: “We can win again if we work hard and really get ready again in the off-season.”
And his role in this is clear: “I plan on being more of a leader by communicating more with my teammates and leading by example. I’ll be one of the older guys, and with the senior captains graduating, new guys are going to have to embrace that role,” he said.
It’ll be exciting to see the growth of Ryan and his teammates next season. The shooting guard is one of three starters returning to next year’s team
As the ball bounced on the concrete after another successful shot by Ryan, he turned and looked back at the court. The connection between the player and the game was evident by the smile on his face. It was a place where he could go out every day and do what he loves – “Get buckets”. (Story by Rocky DeAndrade for University News; photos courtesy of BSU Athletics & Recreation)