Ryan’s Horan guides young Raiders to key win

Hot hand: Arch­bish­op Ry­an seni­or Brendan Hor­an poured in 23 points in his team’s 59-43 win over Cath­ol­ic League op­pon­ent Bon­ner-Pren­der­gast. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Brendan Hor­an will be the first to ad­mit that the of­fens­ive sys­tem in place at Arch­bish­op Ry­an is some­what of an ac­quired taste. When a vis­it­ing re­port­er gen­er­ously de­scribed the X’s and O’s of Bernie Ro­gers’ bas­ket­ball play­book as “not the sex­i­est in the Cath­ol­ic League,” Ro­gers’ most tal­en­ted play­er smiled and began chuck­ling.

“In the be­gin­ning, when I first came to Ry­an, I hated the of­fense,” Hor­an said. “Be­cause in grade school, I was used to just play­ing 1-on-1 where all you’ve got to do to score is beat your guy.”

Hor­an learned pretty quickly not to judge a book by its cov­er, and after scor­ing 23 points in Sunday af­ter­noon’s 59-43 Cath­ol­ic League vic­tory over vis­it­ing Bon­ner-Pren­der­gast, he’s right where he wants to be with­in Ro­gers’ sys­tem. 

But how ex­actly has his view­point changed when it comes to the Raid­ers’ tech­nic­ally sound of­fens­ive at­tack?

“You have to play as a team,” Hor­an said. “The of­fense here taught me that you have to care about your team­mates. That’s the most im­port­ant part.”

It’s some­what dif­fi­cult to de­scribe to an out­sider how Ry­an finds suc­cess at the of­fens­ive end of the court. Con­sid­er­ing the team doesn’t usu­ally have an un­dis­puted star with Di­vi­sion-I tal­ent, Ro­gers’ sys­tem is nev­er pre­dic­ated on one play­er; rather, it’s about find­ing the best shot for the most open play­er … no mat­ter how long that takes.

Re­cently re­tired long­time Phil­adelphia Daily News high school sports writer Ted Sil­ary af­fec­tion­ately called it “Ry­an’ing” the op­pon­ent, and the Prin­ceton-style of­fense that Ro­gers runs looks some­what sim­il­ar to Nor­man Dale’s sys­tem in the 1986 clas­sic sports movie Hoo­siers, where the tit­u­lar team is spe­cific­ally in­struc­ted to pass four times be­fore look­ing to shoot.

While Ro­gers has no such rule in place, Ry­an was able to carve up Bon­ner-Pren­die by me­tic­u­lously passing and weav­ing the ball around in half­court sets, wear­ing down the de­fense un­til an open look presen­ted it­self be­hind the three-point arc or down low un­der the bas­ket.

As a res­ult, Hor­an, a 6-foot-2 seni­or who is the only one in Ro­gers’ ro­ta­tion that has played ma­jor varsity minutes pri­or to this sea­son, had his best per­form­ance of the year. He torched the Fri­ars for 17 of his 23 in the first half in a con­test Bon­ner-Pren­die (1-11, 0-4 league) nev­er led. When a 33-20 Raid­ers (9-4, 1-3) half­time lead was cut to sev­en after three, Hor­an helped close the op­pon­ent out at the foul line by go­ing 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter.

“This of­fense is really big on ball move­ment, and we moved the ball really well today,” Hor­an said. “We like to pass the ball around, and none of us are selfish. Wheth­er I score or my team­mates score, I’m just as happy either way.”

The vic­tory was a crit­ic­al one for the Raid­ers. After win­ning nine Cath­ol­ic League games in each of the last two sea­sons (good enough to com­fort­ably qual­i­fy for the post­season), they dropped their first three to West Cath­ol­ic, Con­well-Egan and Arch­bish­op Wood by a com­bined 48 points. Con­sid­er­ing the Raid­ers close out the sea­son with four road games against top-line tal­ent (Arch­bish­op Car­roll, Neu­mann-Gor­etti, La Salle and Ro­man Cath­ol­ic), they need to pick up as many wins as pos­sible now to put them­selves in a po­s­i­tion to be one of the 10 Cath­ol­ic League teams that make the play­offs.

The Raid­ers gradu­ated eight seni­ors from last year’s group, in­clud­ing five of their top six scorers. Per­haps the biggest void to fill is the one left by Bry­an Okolo, Ry­an’s lead­ing scorer the last two sea­sons who now plays at the Uni­versity of the Sci­ences. However, Hor­an main­tained that guys like Okolo and the oth­er gradu­ated seni­ors helped this cur­rent crop of young­sters be pre­pared for how to handle them­selves in the rig­or­ous wa­ters of the Cath­ol­ic League.

“Last year we had so many seni­ors, and even though we lost them all, they were guys we really looked up to,” Hor­an said. “Es­pe­cially Bry­an. I’ve al­ways tried to take parts of his game and in­cor­por­ate them in­to mine. He was a great shoot­er but an even bet­ter kid.”

Now, Hor­an is sup­por­ted by fel­low seni­ors Nick Heuser (eight points) and Matt De­ver, while sopho­mores Aus­tin Chabot (11 points, six re­bounds), Fred Kil­lian and Aus­tin Slaw­ter are all start­ing and log­ging heavy minutes. This puts the fo­cus on Hor­an (15.3 points per game av­er­age this sea­son) to de­liv­er the goods, and on Sunday he did just that.

“My team­mates and coaches just tell me to drive the ball and read it,” Hor­an said. “If the de­fend­er helps, kick it out; if he doesn’t, take it your­self. They help me a lot with that, and I think we trust ourselves and trust each oth­er.

“Our num­ber one thing is pos­it­iv­ity. When you go 0-3, the first thing you want to do is hang your head, but we just came to­geth­er in prac­tice and worked as hard as we al­ways do. Today, it paid off.”

Hor­an and the Raid­ers had a very suc­cess­ful non-league show­ing, win­ning eight of their nine Cath­ol­ic League pre­curs­ors. Now, they must show they can do it with some con­sist­ency in the league, which is al­ways easi­er said than done. With win­nable games com­ing up against Bish­op McDe­vitt and Car­din­al O’Hara, Ry­an hopes to be right in the thick of things when it comes time to make that fi­nal push to­ward the play­offs.

“It’s a very good league, so I think for us we just needed to real­ize that the en­tire sea­son wasn’t over be­cause we lost three games,” Hor­an said. “We can win some games and be right back in the mix. We have to come out with en­ergy. In those three losses, we star­ted slow and got blown out. In this league, con­sist­ent en­ergy is the most im­port­ant factor.”

Hav­ing fun dur­ing seni­or year is also an im­port­ant factor, something Hor­an re­cog­nizes. While he chat­ted to a re­port­er fol­low­ing the win, Hor­an’s fath­er, James, stood nearby talk­ing to a col­lege scout who had come to watch his son play. James Hor­an, a 1987 Ry­an grad, played bas­ket­ball for the Raid­ers and was a Cath­ol­ic League second-team se­lec­tion by the News Glean­er.

“My dad and his friends al­ways say to sa­vor this, be­cause it’s go­ing to be the best ex­per­i­ence of your life,” Brendan Hor­an said. “I’m happy, but I’m not sat­is­fied. I’m just fo­cused on the next prac­tice, where I know we have to come out and work even harder to make sure we get that next win.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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