Hoop Dreams and Lessons

BY COLBY HOYLE // MAY 8, 2013 //

This is the third in a series of profiles featuring graduating seniors. 

The sun was beating down on the pavement last summer, making it nearly unbearable to play. But that never stopped Ryan Rawnsley or his younger sister, Bryanna, before.

Rawnsley was then a rising senior at Curry College, and he was encouraging Bryanna, then 12, to practice better and to play harder. He believed she had the talent to be a star in high school and to even play in college. That’s when the advice was thrown back in his face. “You’re not a college athlete,” said Bryanna.

Rawnsley_headDefinition: What do you know?

True enough, Rawnsley was cut from the Curry men’s basketball team his freshman year. He never tried again, his spirit a little broken and his passion for the sport a bit diminished. But as he entered his senior year at Curry, the words of Rawnsley’s kid sister rang in his ears.

Some of his friends, who were already on the men’s basketball team, similarly encouraged him to try out again, telling him he had “nothing to lose.” Rawnsley finally agreed and threw himself back into the sport. He began working out with his friends, and his confidence grew. Rawnsley would be the first to the gym and the last to leave.

The odds of making the team were not in his favor. He hadn’t played truly competitive basketball in nearly four years, last playing for Exeter-West Greenwich High School in Rhode Island. (Coming out of high school, Rawnsley was ranked in the top 100 Rhode Island players by the website Rhode Island Preps.) And at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he is what’s known as an “in-betweener,” not big enough to match up with most college forwards, but not quick enough to match up with most guards.

Nonetheless, Rawnsley gave it his all and, after a week of tryouts, was told he made the team.

“Being able to say I am a college athlete is one of the best feelings,” he said.

This past season, the Curry basketball team had one of its best years ever. The Colonels won a school-record 26 games as well as The Commonwealth Coast Conference championship. The team nearly won its opening-round game of the NCAA tournament, losing to Middlebury (Vt.) College, 68-66.

Rawnsley rarely saw time on the floor. He recorded just 28 minutes of playing time throughout the year; most of it was when game outcomes were forgone conclusions. His personal best was on Senior Night, Feb. 16 against the Wentworth Institute of Technology, when he tallied four points, one rebound, one steal and one assist in only five minutes. Curry won the game, 73-61.

Rawnsley will graduate in a few weeks with a degree in communication. As for Bryanna, she is considered one of the top young players in Rhode Island, in no small part because she grew up playing with her older brother, learning from his talents and from his mistakes.

Said Bryanna of her big brother: “He doesn’t realize how good he can be.”

Clearly, sibling encouragement goes both ways.

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