‘Alright, 30-second water break,” yelled Oliver Ames coach Don Byron to a group of sweaty, red-faced basketball players after nearly 60 minutes of drills last Monday.
The teens bolted for the door. But not Ryan Carney.
The junior point guard casually walked to a side hoop. He picked up a basketball and started working on his short-range shot. Eight baskets later, he got water.
“There’s gonna be a difference for the kid who plays 365 days a year and that’s really his way,” said Byron, in his fifth season. “He’s the kind of kid – I get texts, ‘can I get in the gym? I just want to shoot for an hour. Are you gonna be there early? I want to shoot.’ He just likes being in the gym.”
Carney began his sophomore season with a 24-point performance and ended it among the top 12 scorers in EMass with 18.4 points per game. He is set to build on last year’s success after a 62-46 Division 2 South preliminary round loss to Falmouth ended OA’s season. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound teen’s goal is to play Division 1 basketball. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stonehill College have already contacted him.
“I want to get a championship this year and lead the league in scoring again,” Carney deadpanned, but then turned more serious: “I think we can go further. We’ve got more chemistry and a bigger roster – more kids off the bench.”
Outbursts like a career-high 38-point night against Walpole last season have given Carney the confidence to carry the ball in high-pressure situations. Having talent around him, like senior Nick Cidado, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward, also helps his poise.
Carney, an Easton resident, has had teammates with high basketball IQs for most of his life. He joined BABC Academy, a youth program for grades 5-8 sponsored by Leo Papile’s Boston Amateur Basketball Club. (It closed in 2011.)
There he played alongside Mansfield’s Brendan Hill and practiced with the likes of Wrentham’s Jake Layman (Maryland) and Everett’s Nerlens Noel, now a center for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Carney said it’s surreal to think that “regular kids” who he used to play NBA 2k video games with are professionals — or at least on the path to becoming so.
“There’d always be someone who’d bring an Xbox” to hotel rooms where the team would stay on road trips, said Hill. He and Carney carpooled to tournaments and their “friendship grew from there.”
Hill, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound power forward, has been facing off against Carney since Metro West town league games between Mansfield and Easton. The two friends have always talked trash to each other on the court but share a mutual respect.
Since Hill’s side won, 82-54, in their last meeting last January, he has the bragging rights. The Hornets will host the Tigers on Jan. 3.
“We obviously want to come out on top,” Hill said. “It should be a good game when we play them. Just to play against Ryan again will be a lot of fun. It’s usually a game I look forward to.”
Carney spent a year each with the Belmont-based Boston Warriors and Brockton-based Bay State Magic out of Randolph , both AAU teams, after BABC Academy. He now plays for the Boston Titans.
Cidado developed chemistry with Carney when the two played for the same Bay State Magic team. He said Carney’s play rivaled his own, despite a two-year age gap.
“He can score at will,” Cidado said. “Pretty much the whole offense runs through him. He’s a force in the way that teams look to have to defend him. It opens up points for myself and guys like Chris Duggan [senior center)] and Franklin Holgate [sophomore guard].”
Byron said Carney is a “swingman in the truest sense of the word.” He touted the scorer’s guard skills, range, and rebounding skills. He said there are no guarantees, but his eyes are on the postseason.
“We’ve got to start all over again,” Byron said. “It’s kind of a long-range goal. We want to get to the tournament.”
Ahearn drawing attention
Representatives from Boston College and Providence College were in the house to watch Maggie Ahearn, Marshfield’s 6-foot-2 center – the niece of former NBA player/coach Vinny Del Negro – but Duxbury’s Maddie Foote stole the show in her season debut.
Foote, a junior point guard, was the game’s leading scorer with 13 points in a 49-23 win on Monday. She hit three buckets from 3-point land and exhausted opponents with her quick floor game.
Dragons coach Bob Sullivan said he expects a lot from Foote, a catalyst in last year’s playoff run that ended with a 47-43 Division 2 South finals loss to eventual D2 state champion Medfield.
“We used that in our pregame speech,” Sullivan said. “We reminded the girls there were a lot of tears at UMass Boston last year from coaches and players. The kids were on a mission, we know we lost some players, but the program is strong.”
Foote said she and post players Molly Quilty and Catherine Harrison were motivated by a loss against Marshfield in a fall league.
“I mainly just try to control the pace of the game,” Foote said. “As a team, we want to run a lot to get easy points, but if we feed the post, we’re basically unstoppable.”
Roach picks up the pace
Seven minutes into a game against St. Mary’s on Monday, senior point guard Ryan Roach found himself on the bench after two fouls. He sat the whole second quarter. Meanwhile, Rory Donovan (12 points) fell on his wrist and headed to the pine.
Sophomores Nick George and Colin Sullivan came off the bench and led a defensive effort that resulted in a two-point lead at halftime. But there was no replacement for the starter’s scoring touch.
Roach re-entered the game in the third quarter and promptly tallied 14 points over the final two frames. His jump shot and finishing abilities proved to be overpowering as Spellman came up with a 62-54 win.
“He likes to have the ball in his hands and as a coach, I’m confident with the ball in his hands,” said Cardinals coach Mike Perry. “He makes good decisions, he’s very unselfish, he’s a tough kid to defend. He’s been the starting point guard since he was a freshman.”Peter Cappiello can be reached at peter .firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.