2001-12-15 / Sports

Just Call Me Tom: A Story Of Two Brothers

By Mark Ginocchio

Just Call Me Tom:
A Story Of Two Brothers
By Mark Ginocchio

It’s an epic battle of big brother versus little brother. Tom McCormack, the seventh grader is playing one on one with Ryan McCormack the tenth grader. Both athletes take the game seriously. Despite the age difference, Ryan is not going to let "Tommy" win. Tommy is going to have to do that the hard way.

Tommy is on defense and is now being backed down to the hoop by the older, stronger Ryan. Tommy refuses to let him score. He’s going to show his big brother he belongs. He sticks to Ryan’s back like they’re glued. Ryan keeps backing him down, trying to overpower him, but it’s not working. "Tommy has brought his ‘A’ game today, he’s thinking. Suddenly, Ryan turns around to face the hoop. One of his elbows hits Tommy’s face. His tooth flies out of his mouth onto the court.

"I took it personally," Tom McCormack, the Breezy Point native who is starting his sophomore year as Adelphi University’s new point guard, now reflects with a smile. "He always found a way to kick my ass whenever we played."

After last year’s unbelievable season, which resulted in a perfect regular season and an Elite Eight appearance, Adelphi University realized that they might never be able to replace NCAA Division II Player of the Year Ryan McCormack. However, as the 2001-2002 season gets underway, Adelphi thinks they have found that replacement in Tom McCormack, the "great one’s" little brother.

Tom comes to Adelphi after spending his freshman year at Belmont-Abbey College in North Carolina. He was offered a spot on the Adelphi team but he chose not to come because "I wasn’t going to play and my brother was on the team." Instead, he wanted to go to a school where he would get plenty of playing time and a chance to form his own identity.

"In high school I was Ryan’s little brother," he said. "I wanted to move my own way and try and shed that image."

He was able to achieve that at Belmont Abbey but they didn’t have the winning season that Adelphi had last year. "Ryan and I were speaking every day, sharing stories and he kept telling me how great Adelphi’s program was," Tom said. "After the season ended I wanted to be back in New York." He took Ryan’s graduation as a sign to come to Adelphi.

"His dad and I told him it was going to be hard filling Ryan’s shoes," said Adelphi Basketball Coach Jim Ferry. "The expectations are high but he’s got three years to prove himself."

Tom knew that this decision was going to put him back in the same position that he faced in high school.

"At the beginning of the year, I was known by everyone as ‘Ryan’s brother,’" he stated. "But, the more I get to know the guys the more I become known as ‘Tom McCormack.’" However, he did note that outside of the team he is still "Ryan’s brother."

Ferry expressed that Tom is faced with an "abnormal situation." He added, "Ryan may have been the best player to ever wear an Adelphi uniform. The expectations that will follow anyone who will replace him are going to be tough, especially if that player is his brother."

When asked how this makes him feel Tom said, "It’s a positive thing. It drives me to work harder. We just have the same last name. I don’t think I’m in his shadow."

Tom and Ryan have played on the same team before, during summer leagues. Tom claims, "they were valuable, competitive experiences." When asked, he admitted, "Ryan is better." He adds, "but he pushes me to be better than him and he keeps telling me that it may happen one day."

"They’re very similar players," Ferry explained. "Tom is a bit taller and lankier and Ryan was more aggressive, but that comes with experience." When asked if he ever looked at Tom on the court and wished Ryan was back on the squad Ferry said, "It’s never been in regards to when I look at Tom. Anyone would be crazy to turn down an All-American like Ryan but we’re doing pretty well without him."

Tom has always been driven to better himself in basketball. "It’s my passion," he says. "I couldn’t see myself going to school and not playing. It’s something I can’t live without."

Fitting for a point guard, Tom’s idol is "Pistol Pete" Maravich. "He was a flashy point guard," Tom says. "He completely reinvented the point guard position. He was 30 years ahead of his time."

And would he fare better against "Pistol Pete" in one-on-one than he did against his brother?

"Not a chance," he laughs.

Although he has an interest in sports management, Tom’s real dream is to continue playing after graduation, possibly overseas in Europe. When asked what would he think if he played on the same team with Ryan, who has just recently signed a contract with a professional league in Greece, Tom smiled and said, "That would just be crazy. I wouldn’t mind it for a year or too, but then I would have to move on. I can’t always be ‘Ryan’s little brother.’"

Keeping his mind in the present, Tom believes that this could "definitely be the year" for the Panthers. The team has been doing what they can to keep last year’s success in perspective.

"It’s a new year and [Coach] Ferry has stressed that last year is over and done with," Tom says. "We’re 0-0 and everyone in the country is looking at us on the schedule and seeing a big bullseye on our backs."

"Last year was a magical season," Ferry said. "But 31-0 doesn’t happen… well, much at all… but I think that we have all the pieces and Tom McCormack would be a big part of it all."

In the meantime, Tom is still trying to consider ways to shed that "little-brother" image. "The perfect season is not necessary, we just need to win

games. We’ve really come together and the outlook is great."

And how will he ultimately become known as "Tom McCormack" and not "Ryan McCormack’s little brother?"

"Win a championship," he says with a huge smile on his face.

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