There’s no place like home.
Wherever life takes you, your ‘home’ never really changes. Everyone has a different idea of what ‘home’ actually is. It can be where you grew up, it can be where you started your family, or it can be something completely different. Regardless of how you view it, we all have a ‘home’ somewhere.
Eventually, we will all venture off and leave our own mark on the world, but the sense of home will always be in the back of your mind.
Pieces of home tend to follow us everywhere, and Cassidy Ryan is no exception. Formerly of the Canisius Golden Griffins, Ryan had plenty of reminders of home while attending school in Buffalo, NY. Three to be exact, in the form of three teammates all hailing from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
They weren’t his bloodline family, but they quickly turned into an extended family and some of his best friends.
But, when his family needed him the most, he made the decision to move closer to home.
Now, a member of the Brock Badgers, Ryan can rest easy knowing that he can continue his basketball journey with his home just a short drive down the Queen Elizabeth Expressway to the 407/403.
It all started in city of Mississauga, Ontario, in the neighbourhood known as Meadowvale.
Playing basketball at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, Ryan was a big part of the basketball community. His success was big for the neighbourhood, and he became the first player in his high school’s history to sign a National Letter of Intent to play at the Division I level.
“High school basketball was probably one of the best times of my life,” said Ryan, reflecting back on what it was like to be the first from his school to sign a NLI at a Division I institution. “I played with some great guys who are still some of my best friends today, and we made school history by winning ROPSSAA.”
“Following that, I knew I was going to sign to play at the D1 level and it was big, not only for me, but for Meadowvale as a whole.”
Alongside two other basketball players who made the transition to Division I for other sports, one committing to the Buffalo Bulls for soccer and one committing to Indiana University for track and field, the trio have become role models for younger kids in the area.
Ryan was off to Canisius, which has had a recent history of attracting top-tier Canadian talent. This past season, Ryan was one of four Canadians on the roster, all of whom called the GTA their home growing up.
“It was great,” said Ryan, having other Canadians from the area alongside him at Canisius. “They’ve become my best friends and guys I look up to.”
“I’ve learned a lot from those guys.”
They even began to build their own little family away from school and basketball.
“I live with two of them,” continued Ryan. “We couldn’t get away from competition. We’d go at each other in any way possible, but at the end of the day, it was to get the most out of each other to be better.”
Even being in a new country, and away from home and his family, Ryan was able to find a new family and create a second ‘home’.
As a sophomore in 2015-16, Ryan was used sparingly with the Golden Griffins. The 6’6”, 215-pound forward appeared in 28 games, averaging 7.0 minutes per contest. He averaged 2.6 points and 1.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.6% from the field.
After the season, Ryan decided to transfer. After considering his options, both in Canada and the United States, there was one factor that stood out among the rest that served as his guiding light.
“Honestly, I thought of transferring somewhere else in the U.S., and I could have made an impact there,” said Ryan. “But my family and I just lost my dad recently, so being close to my mom and younger sister right now was important to me.”
“Brock is a great basketball program and the guys are really good there so I would love to win a national championship.”
Being close to home was the only thing Ryan wanted. To be there for his family, and to have his family there for him, was the most important thing. Now, separated by roughly an hour, the Ryan family can all be together.
Returning to Canada to finish his university career and continue his basketball journey hasn’t changed the end goal for Ryan. Playing professional basketball is still the dream.
“The NBA is my dream, but overseas is more realistic,” said Ryan.
“Maybe at the end of my career at Brock, I’ll get NBA Workouts. If I get that chance, I’ll be happy.”
Even with everything happening off the court, Ryan remains focused on his goal at the end of his journey. He has different paths that can take him to where he wants to go, all of which will hopefully lead him to the bright lights and packed arenas of the NBA.
Playing basketball in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) system is vastly underrated. It doesn’t have the draw that the NCAA has, but it’s still a great platform for players to showcase their talents and take the next step in their basketball journeys.
Over the last few years, the Badgers have re-emerged as a top contender, not only in their respective conference, but on the national stage. In 2015-16, the Badgers finished with a record of 27-11 overall, 13-6 in conference play, and were ranked #8 in the country as of March 1st, 2016.
A resurgence of school pride surrounding the team has made the Bob Davis Gymnasium at Brock University one of the more hostile environments for road teams to play. Ryan is hoping to add to the excitement, while coming in and helping the team reach even higher national rankings.
“I just want to bring leadership to the team and be someone who can play on both ends of the floor, and hopefully lead the team to an even better record and ranking,” said Ryan.
Ryan brings size to the front court, while his shooting ability will stretch the floor and create match-up problems for opponents night in and night out.
From living with his teammates at Canisius, he will also bring a few things that he picked up from them.
“I’ll probably take the drive they have,” concluded Ryan. “They’re both going to play pro after this and it’s because of their work ethic.”
If Ryan can emulate the work ethic of his former teammates while at Brock, there’s no doubt that he will become an instant fan favourite.
With two years left in his collegiate basketball career, transferring to Brock University isn’t a step backwards.
It’s a new chapter.
Returning to Canada wasn’t necessarily in the cards at the start of his time at Canisius, but in the end, basketball is just a game. His family needed him, he needed them, and he made a decision that was best for himself on multiple fronts. He will play high quality basketball and get a high quality education at Brock University, all while being close to his family.
Even in the game of basketball, there truly is no place like home.