Cabarrus

First-year coach hopes experience rubs off on team

Drew Ryan was on the fast track to becoming a college basketball coach.

Ryan worked breaking down film and scouting opponents for the University of Maryland's women's basketball team for four years and for the WNBA's Washington Mystics for a season.

But the now-24-year-old decided that constantly being on the road did not fit into the life of a newlywed. Ryan, however, didn't give up on basketball.

"I've always been passionate about college basketball, and that was the direction I was heading," said Ryan. "But coaching college basketball is more of a lifestyle than it is a job."

Taking over as girls basketball coach at Covenant Classical School this year, Ryan is excited about the opportunity to share his knowledge of the sport.

"I'm committed to it. I'm passionate about it, and I love it," said Ryan. "It's why I was put on this earth - to coach and teach basketball."

Ryan has been around the game from an early age, playing for Maryland's Quince Orchard High before playing a year of junior college basketball at Montgomery College.

When he transferred to Maryland as a sophomore, Ryan began to work as the Terrapins' assistant video coordinator, having to scout opponents' game sets and tendencies for the coaching staff.

Ryan worked with the Maryland women's basketball team during his three years as an undergraduate in College Park. After he graduated, the Washington Mystics offered Ryan a similar job for a year. Ryan returned to Maryland for another year after his time in the WNBA before deciding to pursue another career.

He said he hopes his previous experience will allow him to build a tradition at the small Concord private school.

"I've been fortunate enough to be around some of the best minds in the country," said Ryan. "My time in college and the WNBA sharpened the advance specifics of basketball: I've been exposed to literally thousand of offensive and defensive sets."

After coaching a few boys' teams in Maryland, Ryan moved to the area after former Covenant Classical athletic director Justin Kuralt recruited him to coach the Covenant Classical girls' team.

Ryan said he's enjoying working with his new team in the first few weeks of practice.

"It's been incredible," he said. "The girls that I have this year try their absolute hardest. They listen and understand what I'm teaching them, and have great attitudes."

Covenant Classical will be young this season, but Ryan, a self-described perfectionist, has high hopes for his nine-girl roster.

"I'm very, very detailed-oriented, down to the way your foot is facing on the court," said Ryan. "I expect the same thing from my girls."

Ryan has been impressed by Kristi Watanabe, the lone senior on the squad, because of her leadership.

"She's just vocal, she's smart and she listens," said Ryan. "She has a great attitude and the girls really follow her."

Hannah Stapleton is the only other upperclassman on the team.

Alex Kuralt, a seventh-grader and the youngest girl on the squad, needs some work but has a lot of raw potential, said Ryan.

"Her shooting form is phenomenal," he said. "She's probably my best pure shooter."

Regardless of the wins and losses, Ryan is excited to see his team grow.

"They've got the work ethic, they've got the attitude, and they're buying in," said Ryan. "There's just so much potential there."

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