Sometimes, success for one program can come at the cost of another. Take the Mansfield High boys basketball team, for example. The Tigers’ top scorer from last season, senior Derique Ryan, as well as fellow senior Saiid Adebo – both football players – couldn’t join the basketball team until the football season was over.
With the Tigers annually making extended playoff runs on the gridiron nowadays, that means later arrivals to the hardwood for dual-sport athletes.
But the duo have made the transition from fieldhouse to gym, and after a couple of weeks to knock off the rust, this year’s squad may finally be finding its chemistry.
“The chemistry does not come quickly,” Ryan said. “Chemistry is a big factor because adding new pieces to the team that haven’t been there all year, we have to get all the plays and other aspects of the game. Now, we’re building a good bit of chemistry, but at first we didn’t.”
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In fact, Mansfield basketball coach Jason Speakes attributes a few tournament losses directly to the process of working in the new players.
“Trying to work guys like Derique and Saiid into the mix can be a challenge,” he said. “There are some guys who have sort of carved out a spot over the course of the last few months, but then you add a couple of newcomers. It can cause some difficulties with your team chemistry.”
Adebo expected to be a big part of the Tigers last season, but a thumb injury he suffered playing football required surgery and he never saw the floor. Ryan, though, led the team in scoring, and will be counted on again to be a major contributor this year.
“He’s an explosive offensive player and he’s come right into the gym this year and given us a big lift offensively,” Speakes said. “He’s capable of erupting and putting up big numbers. There’s times that he gets hot and nobody can really stop him.”
Ryan, who had 294 yards receiving with three touchdowns during football season, admits it’s been a little slow getting back into basketball mode.
“You have to get your timing back right, you have to do certain things you haven’t done in a long time, so it does take a while,” he said. “But after you get used to a couple of games it becomes easier.”
As the offensive leader, Ryan knows a lot is expected from him.
“I know I have to live up to a lot after what I did last year, but I’m just taking it one game at a time and getting back into basketball mode,” he said. “I believe in a few games I’ll be back up to par with last year.”
It’s not just putting the ball in the basket that makes Ryan an important part of the Tigers.
“He kind of brings a bit of swagger to the court with him and the other guys feed off that,” Speakes asserted. “He’s got a very charismatic personality. It’s infectious and it brings the whole attitude of the team up when he’s in the gym. People play a little more loosely and freely when he’s in the game and it really opens it up for other people.”
Speakes also notes how unique a talent like Ryan can be.
“He’s strong and he’s physical. He’s really got a nice touch with his shot and he can get to the basket or create his own shot. He’s also a great free-throw shooter,” Speakes said. “To be able to compete in both football and basketball at the 6A level in Texas, you’ve got to be an exception talent. Derique fits that description.”