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Former Team Manager Trades Water Bottles for Buckets
It’s not often that a former high school basketball team manager makes for an interesting story.
During his freshman and sophomore years, Knightstown basketball player Ryan Hood was a team manager. He performed all of the basic duties of a team manager, all the while wishing he was playing on the actual basketball team. But the scrawny kid gathering up the basketballs at the end of practice wasn’t about to crack a roster that included Cameron Hiner, Ryan Fultz, Eric Freeman, Shane Roland and the rest of those talented Panthers who delivered three straight sectional titles.
His junior year Ryan didn’t return as one of the managers, instead choosing to sit out one year and taking some time to work on his basketball game.
“I just wanted to take some time off and work on my shot and ball handling,” he said. “Maybe do some other things. But I worked really hard on my game.”
The Knightstown Panthers won their third straight Class 2A basketball sectional last season. But there were nine seniors on that team, and a depleted roster returning this year opened up a new opportunity. Bulking up (up?) to 5-8 and 150 pounds, Ryan still didn’t look like the typical high school basketball player. But he was a gym rat, and those years serving as team manager gave him access to the balls, the court, and the chance to hone his shot.
This season he tried out for the team.
“I always wanted to play, but there was so much talent on the team … there was just no way,” Ryan said. “But when all of those guys graduated, that created some holes on the team and I took advantage of that.”
With no varsity or junior varsity basketball experience, he made the roster of this year’s team in what some would consider a Cinderella-type of story. And although Cinderella looked pretty good in that white dress and pumpkin carriage, the difference is, she couldn’t rain down three-pointers on the opposition.
Ryan made the cut and got a few minutes of playing time in the first few games of the season.
Fast-forward to last Friday night, when Cambridge City Lincoln was dominating the Panthers inside, and the only Knightstown player who could hit the ocean with the ball was senior Nathan Hibbert.
Ryan had missed his first two shots early in the game, but re-entered in the third quarter after the Panthers had fallen behind 31-25. He nailed a three-pointer that closed the gap, but Lincoln still took a 35-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
During the quarter break, Knightstown Coach Chad Ballenger told Ryan to start shooting the ball if Lincoln was going to give him the opening.
“He said for me to just shoot it,” Ryan said. “He said he knew I was capable of hitting the shot.” After Lincoln forged ahead 37-32, Ryan spotted up in the right corner, behind the three-point line. His teammates found him, and he launched a shot from deep in the corner.
Swish! He nailed the long-range bomber that suddenly pulled the team to within two points. Two minutes later, Lincoln had pulled ahead again at 45-37, when Ryan slipped back into the same corner. One quick pass later it was swish again – nothing but net.
A minute later Cambridge City had again pulled ahead at 50-42, and once again Ryan found his spot in the right corner and drilled his fourth straight three-pointer. That cut the lead to 50-45. The Panthers clawed back to within 52-50 with one minute showing on the game clock when they set up the next play.
Ryan once again spotted up in the right corner of the court, behind the three point line. He went to the sweet spot, took the pass from a teammate, and again hit nothing but net on a three-pointer that gave Knightstown a 53-52 lead.
He took four shots in the fourth quarter, all three-pointers, and all hit nothing but the bottom of the net. Each one of those field goals were crucial, ending Lincoln scoring runs and returning momentum – and the lead - to the Panthers.
Ryan has gone from team manager, to being away from the game altogether, to hitting four straight clutch three-pointers that provided absolute thrills for Panther fans. And he took it all in stride after scoring 15 points on five of seven shooting.
“I’m just glad I’m getting the chance to play,” Ryan said. “Yeah, it was quite a thrill to hit those. But we didn’t win.”
True, they lost the game. But Ryan’s attitude epitomizes this young Panther team. They are a bunch of underdogs who never stop fighting and scraping for all they can get. Even though they are 0-6, the team is full of fight, is aggressive, and will continue to improve this season.
If you haven’t been watching them, you’ve obviously been missing a very entertaining show.
Where Are They Now?
Knightstown three-sport star Mark Lawrence graduated in 1982, and is one of the few Panthers who were named all-state in more than one sport. He remains the Panthers’ all-time passing leader in football, accumulating 5,694 yards through the air.
Mark also starred on the basketball and baseball teams at KHS. He was named all-state in football, baseball, and to the honorable mention team in basketball. He was a four-year varsity starter in all three sports.
He went on to star at Hanover College as a basketball player, but also stood out as an outstanding player on the golf and tennis teams - two sports he didn’t even play in high school.
Mark is currently living in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and two children, Gabrielle, a sixth grader, and Grant, in the second grade. Grant is a star basketball player for the youth group team his father coaches.
Mark is Vice President of MBA Insurance in Dublin, OH, and could be seen attending a few games last year to watch his nephew, Eric Freeman, quarterback the football Panthers to the state championship game.
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