Newsday's Athlete of the Week is Floral Park's Ryan Connolly
Ryan Connolly retreated to a classroom at Floral Park with the rest of the basketball team for the postgame meeting. That was when assistant coach Matt Kelly came up to him with the news flash.
“You got another triple-double today,” Kelly said.
“I was pretty shocked,” Connolly said, telling the story Wednesday. “I didn’t think I had a triple-double. But it’s pretty cool.”
Especially since it meant that the 5-11 junior guard/forward had posted his first two triple-doubles in back-to-back games.
And the numbers were perfectly matched — 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a nine-point win over Plainedge on Jan. 21 after a 12-12-12 effort in a 29-point win over Mineola on Jan. 13.
It just illustrates that Connolly, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week and a preseason Top 100 selection, contributes in many ways.
“He’s been everything as advertised,” Knights coach Sean Boyle said. “It’s funny. He’s not going to blow you away with 25 points. That’s not what he’s looking to accomplish out there. He’s just across the board our best defender. He knows everything about the opposing team from like a scouting report perspective. He’s the hardest worker in practice.
“He makes everyone else around him better. If we do anything competitive in practice … his team always wins … And it’s not because he’s scoring all the points. He elevates everyone else on his group’s level of play. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s great.”
After serving as a sixth man last season, Connolly starts at shooting guard and plays some at point guard and small forward. He was averaging 10.3 points, 6.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 steals through Thursday for the Knights (9-5 overall, 5-2 Nassau A-IV).
“I knew I had to take a big jump because all of our seniors were leaving,” Connolly said. “We had no returning starters, so I knew someone needed to step up. I said, ‘Why not me?’ So I just took on a bigger role. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to win.”
Connolly also can do good things with a football in his hand. Following two years as the JV’s top quarterback, he started for the varsity this season and threw for 1,236 yards. He finished by going 16-for-22 for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a Nassau III quarterfinal loss at Bethpage.
So is he going to be a football guy or a basketball guy at the next level? Connolly hopes to decide during the summer after playing AAU basketball and working with a quarterback coach.
“I was always so focused on going to [play] basketball for college,” Connolly said, “but after this past football season, I was like, ‘Maybe I should give it a look, too.’ ”