The athletic building of York College has trophies and plaques that validate the hard work of the coaches and players. One of the people that almost never sits still is Coach Ronald St. John.
The basketball season here and there are many reasons for the constant motion. Whether it is practice, games or the clashing of many egos that comes with basketball. One of the most interesting egos is Ryan St John, who is the coaches youngest son and back-up two guard.
Ryan St. John is an ordinary looking player. A six-foot guard doesn’t seem to have any advantages to excel in the game, however he is much more than meets the eye.
St John’s office is overwhelmed by the walls and cases flooded with articles and accolades from his 27 plus years of coaching and playing basketball for York. One of the most interesting pieces in his office is the small picture right above his seat.
The picture is St John standing next to a tall basketball player in a uniform. When asked about the picture St John said, “He was one of my best defenders and hardest players.”
The tall lean player from the small photo is St John’s oldest son Brandon. A former two guard for York that had a game based on defense and hustle plays.
They had an undefeated team but lost in the championship game and coach St John didn’t win his first title until the year after Brandon graduated. Years later, St. John never forgets that game especially because they were up by ten at half time.
“We had such a good team, we ended up going undefeated in the conference and thought we had a chance to win it all, and we simply blew it.” said St John.
Almost 14 years and four titles, St. John has that nasty taste in his mouth. Regardless of how many titles he wins; he will always have that in the back of his mind.
“I was pissed because we had the best seven footer in the conference and the New York Times was there and didn’t try to cover us throughout the entire season,” said St. John. “I wanted to interview throwing that in their face. When we lost I had to suck it up and be quiet about everything.”
With the season underway, St. John is excited for a lot of reasons. With the new additions, the team looks stronger than ever.
“I think that we are going to be a little bit better than last year, long term though,” said St John. “With the addition of Ryan, I think we have that outside threat that can sink the daggers. You leave him out there he probably gotcha.”
When it comes to Ryan his confidence is everything. He is trying to go as far as he can with basketball under his father. Growing up in a generation of two guards that took the NBA to another level it seems that Ryan plans to do the same.
“I know I can shoot and I have the ability to put the ball on the floor, I just need to prove myself that’s all.” said Ryan.
Ryan was also a former track star who would have been better if he chose that path, but he is more determined than ever to make it with that orange rock in his hand.
“Not being cocky or anything but I was nasty when it came to track, I didn’t take it seriously and was one of the top runners in the nation,”said Ryan. “I use to go to the track meets and look around like I am bout to murder all of y’all.”
When coach was asked about Ryan, he also believes that track was the better route for his son.
“He would have been better off if he chose to do track rather than play basketball. However if he wants to play ball we gonna make sure he gives it his all” said coach.
This is the common ground bases on the foundation of a father-son relationship on and off the court. Both Coach and Ryan wants to leave all on the court if it gives them the successful ending that they both envision.
The relationship over time is complex and coach has a higher standard for Ryan. He expects Ryan to lead by example on the court and improve on his mistakes.
“Its not really a higher standard it’s just a lot of the mistakes he makes in practice I expect him to know better” said coach.
Even the other coaches know Ryan to not lead but not to follow. Assistant Coach Jessica Cherry agrees with Coach St. John on his son playing basketball.
“He should know his father and know what he doesn’t like, this is his first time being coached by his father so there is gonna be an adjustment period but I think he got this.” said Cherry.
All players have instincts that are heightened when they learn whom their playing for and the system that is preferred. Coach St John’s former and most successful player Neil Edwards, a seven-foot center that was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers is part of that example.
Before becoming a defensive staple for coach St John, Edwards played at San Jacinto a junior college in Texas and Stony Brook a university in Long Island.
“Coach St John was the best coach I ever had, regardless where I played,” said Edwards. “He worked with me got me ready for anything that came my way. “He taught me so much about working hard and doing the right thing.”
“He values character more than anything, you have to remember you’re dealing with a program that doesn’t have Scholarships so you must be able to recruit quality people as well as talented student athletes” Edwards continued.
As for the season, coach thinks that Ryan is going to have a great season despite coming off the bench and contributing into the team’s success for another CUNY Athletic Conference Championship.
“Brandon didn’t initially start either but he was so good that he would end up starting at times.” said St. John.
He has confidence that this season will be one to remember, regardless of the angle that is taken upon his son being part of the championship team.