Matt Ryan sensed what the Notre Dame basketball team could become well before most observers.
Before the senior forward from New Rochelle, N.Y., signed to play for Mike Brey in November the Irish hosted their longtime commitment on an official visit. Part of that weekend on campus included playing pickup games with the current roster.
“I knew they were gonna be in the top 25 within a few games,” Ryan said. “Just looking with Jerian (Grant) coming back, with Pat (Connaughton) and Demetrius (Jackson) and Zach (Auguste). I knew Zach was gonna be playing at a high level after I saw him in the fall. I was just being patient. Now they’re just surprising everybody. I’m not surprised at all and neither are Rex and Elijah.”
Notre Dame has since risen to No. 13 in the country with a 15-1 record, including a road win at No. 18 North Carolina earlier this week. Ryan watched on television as the Irish made a statement in the ACC with that victory.
“I was nervous toward the end,” Ryan said. “I was covering my eyes. I was at my grandparents’ and it was nerve wracking coming down to the end but I’m so happy they pulled it out, just watching the way they space the floor, the way they were getting shooters shots.”
Ryan reconnected with the coaching staff shortly after their game.
Assistant Martin Ingelsby went from Chapel Hill, N.C., to New York on Tuesday to watch Ryan play in person. Ryan led all scorers with 24 points in helping Iona Prep to a to a 79-43 win over St. Raymond, avenging a defeat earlier this season in the process.
“I was so happy that he was gonna come up to that game,” Ryan said. “It was funny because he asked me, ‘What’s a great game to come to?’ I told him the St. Ray’s game would be a great game. They had beat us already and going there it’s gonna be a slugfest, go down to the wire. Then he comes up and we win the game by 35.
“It didn’t turn out the way we expected but no complaints. Especially after that North Carolina win, he came up the next day. Regardless of if they won or lost he was gonna come up but it was great.”
Iona Prep is now 9-3 this season while Ryan is averaging about 19 points per game despite drawing over-the-top attention from opposing defenses. That’s something he expects to continue and to actually aid in his development at the next level.
“I’m doing everything that I can,” Ryan said. “I’ve gotta just take what the defense gives me. If I touch the ball I’m getting doubled and everybody is staring at me. For me it’s about being patient during the game and not trying to force it. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m not pushing the issue or taking bad shots. I’m playing within the offense. That’s gonna help me be ready for Notre Dame.”