Freshmen in high school normally experience plenty of firsts but very few get to check the box for playing varsity athletics.
With the tip-off of basketball season last Tuesday against the La Grange Leopards, Ryder Ramirez was part of head coach Ray Dabney’s starting five and made his impact known early and often. His first bucket came from behind the three-point arc to break a 4-4 tie and help the rookie to settle in.
“I was very nervous. Before the game I thought I was going to throw up,” Ramirez admitted after the 51-43 win. “Once I saw a couple of shots go in, I felt better but coming into it I was very nervous.”
He added that Coach Dabney hadn’t explicitly stated who was going to start the game, but he had been practicing with the top group leading up to the first game.
“In practice, we had the first and second group and he put me with the one’s but I didn’t know for sure if I was going to start,” Ramirez said. “He said first group and said Ryder, so I went out and did my thing.”
Doing “his thing,” meant tracking down the play on the front lines of Dabney’s full-court press and controlling the Tigers’ offensive pace with exceptional ball-handling skills which opened up his teammates, especially after a behind-the-back assist to Callen Robius.
On top of that, he led the team with 15 points in a game plan that had not included him before Dabney saw something he couldn’t pass up.
“The plan was to see if he could play on the varsity level, if he could spot play he was going to play a lot on the JV but when he got to practice, man, he just started doing some things that made me say, ‘We gotta have this kid,’” the head coach recounted. “He’s a different cat, for a freshman he’s a different cat. He’s not scared of anything; he played quarterback timid but in basketball, you put the ball in his hands and that’s his monster.”
For the majority of the game, however, he was the shortest player on the court but that didn’t bar him from coming up with rebounds and lose balls which gave Sealy more possessions and ultimately the win.
“He did some good things; the behind-the-back pass, missed two free throws, came back and knocked down a three-pointer that we really needed to keep it going,” Dabney said. “So I’m going to have to adjust, my coaching style is going to have to adjust to him because I’ve gotta let him go a little bit. I’ve normally had those dudes, but they were like 6’6”, not 5’6”.”
Despite his performance, Ramirez still felt as though the pre-game nerves will stick around for a while but he was grateful to get a win to start the season before a long weekend.
“I’m probably still going to be nervous but I just need to play aggressive and do what I gotta do,” he said. “Feels good to get the season going good and I’m going to eat a lot of food on the holiday break.”