As much as his talent belonged down south and as much as he didn’t want to give up the dream of playing NCAA basketball, multiple signs pointed Cassidy Ryan back to Canada.
The Mississauga, Ontario native was recruited to Canisius College in Buffalo after finishing high school in 2014. Ryan built a legacy at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, becoming the first athlete in the school’s history to sign a National Letter of Intent to play Division 1.
During his first year with the Canisius Golden Griffins, the 6-7 forward played a limited 5.9 minutes per game. He called it frustrating, but very much understood it was his freshman year. In year two, Ryan played seven minutes per game, at times saw an increase in action, but was back to the bench come playoffs.
It got to the point that others started noticing his lack of minutes.
“A guy from ESPN, who broadcasted a lot of the games, gave me a call halfway through the season,” Ryan recalled. “He’s like ‘man you should be playing a lot more. Do you and your coach not get along?’”
Ryan’s relationship with the Canisius head coach wasn’t strained, but lack of minutes left the forward knowing his talents were being wasted. So he began to look elsewhere.
Looking as far south as Houston and as north as Nipissing University, located three and a half hours from his Mississauga home, Ryan weighed his options to transfer. The University of Ottawa, a school that recruited Ryan during his high school days was back on his list of options.
It wasn’t until a third Canadian university joined the list of possibilities to truly give Ryan the belief that he wanted to return home. Studying Physical Education, Ryan’s credits from Canisius transferred perfectly over to Brock University. One of his friends, a student at Brock, knew about his thought of transferring, which opened the door to Brock and the line of communication between Ryan and Brock head coach Charles Kissi.
“I didn’t think of Brock as a school that I’d ever come to,” said Ryan. He recalls training camp with Team Ontario at age 13, which was held at Brock. At that time he thought to himself, ‘why would anyone want to come here?’.
But that was then and this is now. Kissi, like he has with many players before, convinced Ryan that Brock was a good choice. The two went for dinner to talk and Ryan remembers Kissi saying, “We don’t need you, but we’d really love to have you.”
It was a statement that some might call arrogant, but Kissi wasn’t wrong. Brock has a good basketball program, one of the best in the country in fact. They’re no longer the ‘who would go here’ program that Ryan thought 10 years ago.
“The way he broke it down was he was upfront,” said Ryan about dinner with Kissi. “He said I was going to play a lot here and I was going to do my thing, and hopefully win a national title.”
“We talked about who we are, what we’re about, what we have built and what we want to continue to build here,” said Kissi. “We talked about the culture and environment at this university. We talked about his personal goals and our goals.”
Ryan was sold on Brock. The player and coach bonded and built a relationship that was tight enough for Ryan to tell Kissi he was set on coming to Brock before Ryan told his mother.
Family is important to Ryan, and Kissi understood that about his players. Ryan had Kissi come with him to inform his mom about his decision. She knew Ryan wanted to fulfill his dream of playing professional basketball, even if it meant going overseas. Ryan and Kissi had to explain to her that that was still a possibility playing university basketball in Canada.
“For me to just recruit the athlete is almost saying I just want them for their talent and that’s not what we are about,” said the veteran coach. “[Parents] have spent 17 or 18 years to get [their kids] to this place, so as they hand them off to the next person that’s going to help them through the next four or five years, I think it’s important they know who that person is.”
Now only playing an hour away from his hometown, Ryan’s mom will be able to come see her son play more often.
Brock basketball’s home opener will be emotional for the Ryan family. It’ll be the first time Ryan’s mom will get a chance to watch her son play in three years; while November 11 – the day before Brock’s home opener – will mark the one year anniversary of Ryan’s dad passing away.
Ryan and his mom will be able to spend some time together and she’ll be able to see her son play the game he loves. Ryan said he’s more nervous about the injury that he suffered in preseason than playing in front of his mom. However, Ryan’s currently doing well with rehab as he battles back from a knee and ankle injury he suffered in Brock’s preseason game versus Redeemer. Both Ryan and Kissi expect the forward to be back for the game versus Toronto, giving credit to Joe Kenny, the head athletic therapist at Brock.
Now being able to play closer to home, while getting an education at Brock, Ryan is ready for the minutes he didn’t get at Canisius. He and his family are reunited, stronger and ready for the next chapter of his life