Ryan Discovers Midwest Hoops Home

By Abbe George

From the gyms of New England to sunny Palo Alto, and more recently, Purcell Pavilion, rising junior Cormac Ryan has been defined—both on and off the court—by a nationwide residence.  

“The amount of different people you can meet through basketball and the places it can take you show you a lot about the game and yourself, as well as the world” explained Ryan, a 6’5” transfer from Stanford University. 

Ryan attributes much of his success to his family and New York City upbringing. “Growing up in New York shaped my personality and the style I play with on the court,” Ryan noted. “I consider myself a very competitive person, and I don’t know if that’s growing up with four other siblings or that New York basketball culture.”

Ryan further explored the East Coast when his family relocated to Massachusetts, where he graduated from Milton Academy and currently resides. Ryan, who refers to himself as an “East Coast guy,” said the region forged his game by giving him a competitive edge and bringing him talented coaches and programs. This area also introduced him to the old Big East basketball conference and, ultimately, Notre Dame.

After high school, Ryan travelled across the country to play basketball for Stanford University, where he competed in 24 games during the 2018-19 season, averaging 8.7 points per game. This more than three-thousand-mile move did not come without some culture shock, though. “Spending a year on the West Coast felt different in subtle ways. The pace of life is a little bit different out there, but I did enjoy my time,” Ryan recounted. 

After announcing his transfer, Ryan found a new home in Notre Dame, Indiana. Ryan attributes some of the school’s appeal to the Midwestern atmosphere, which he feels is similar to that of his East Coast homes. 

However, there was quite a bit more involved in Ryan’s decision than region. After earning a 3.8 grade-point average during his first year at Stanford, Ryan was looking for a school that prioritized academics, but would also build him as a person and a basketball player. 

“I was looking for a good fit for me, both culturally and on the court. I found that in Notre Dame.” 

“Academics have always been a big part of my decision making, but primarily it was a basketball decision,” Ryan remarked. “I was looking for a good fit for me, both culturally and on the court. I found that in Notre Dame.” 

As the first contact when Ryan announced his transfer, Irish head coach Mike Brey quickly sold the guard on his team and his school. Ryan cites Brey’s personality as the strongest factor in creating that culture he found so appealing. “He’s a great coach and can be demanding when he needs to be. He sets the tone and everyone falls into that,” Ryan corroborated. 

Due to NCAA rules, Ryan spent the 2019-20 season on the sidelines. The lessons he learned out of uniform, however, were invaluable. “It gave me great time to develop my game and my body and to learn the value of what a person can add to a team without even stepping onto the court.” 

This season tested Ryan’s discipline and ability to make an impact on a group without the capacity to play. Though he found it difficult to “hold himself back” on game days, he learned the value of practice and how to extend his energy on the sideline to his teammates on the court. 

Despite “itching” to play all year, he found success bringing spirit to the team, both in practice and in games. “My philosophy is to stay positive and energetic,” Ryan asserted. “I try to practice what I preach and always stay engaged, give guys compliments and push the guys at practice.” He found this job required little sweat due to his like-minded teammates.  

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Ryan’s first year at Notre Dame became even more unique when it was cut short due to COVID-19, which has challenged various aspects of life, including basketball. 

Away from campus, Ryan finds himself practicing in his driveway against his father, exercising via Zoom with his old New York programs and conversing with teammates and coaches over the phone. “As much as basketball training is important, it’s also important to keep the chemistry together and help everyone stay sane, upbeat, and positive,” Ryan observed. 

Ryan remains hopeful and confident in his team’s ability to come out stronger than before. “We’ve got a bunch of determined guys who will find a way—whether that’s in the fourth quarter and you’ve got to find a way to get a stop or whether it’s during the Coronavirus and you’ve got to find a way to get better.” 

Ryan hopes the team will go on to win an ACC championship next season, like the 2015 team, and make a strong run in the NCAA Tournament. “We are competitors, we are winners and we want to go get it,” Ryan asserted. 

As for his personal goals, Ryan says right now they align with the team’s dreams of winning championships, but he hopes to one day play in the NBA. This season on the bench was a productive step on his way there, as it gave him the space to cultivate some of his biggest strengths—his positive attitude and energy. 

Ryan’s season off the court and his travels across the United States helped both his personality and his style of play evolve. “The journey has not been one I could have predicted, but it has been one I certainly enjoyed,” Ryan commented. “It’s taught me a lot of valuable lessons that extend far outside basketball, a lot of things about life, really.” 

Abbe George is a Neuroscience and Behavior major and Poverty Studies minor from Lebanon, Kentucky. She will attend medical school after graduating in May 2020.

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