2006-12-15 / Sports

Confident Pearson Steps Up For CTK Royals

By Elio Velez

Ryan Pearson (left) jumps in the air to swat away the ball from St. Mary’s Jeffrey Lawrence (right) as Christ the King’s won comfortably in their home opener, 86- 57. Photo By Peter Borriello. Ryan Pearson (left) jumps in the air to swat away the ball from St. Mary’s Jeffrey Lawrence (right) as Christ the King’s won comfortably in their home opener, 86- 57. Photo By Peter Borriello. Bob Oliva has been involved in the high school basketball scene for a longtime.

The problem the 26th year head coach had to solve at the Big Apple Basketball Public vs. Catholic School Challenge was how to contain Lincoln’s sophomore standout Lance Stephenson.

Oliva had put his best but smallest defender, the 5 foot 8 Malik Boothe on Stephenson and he would dazzle his way to 13 first half points.

Lincoln had stretched their lead to 20 points by the third quarter so Oliva made a defensive switch. To contain the 6 foot 3 Stephenson, Christ the King junior forward Ryan Pearson stepped in.

Pearson is 6 foot 5 and though a slim and sinewy, as a defender he had the quickness and long arm span to harass Stephenson. He made not only their leading scorer but also their best passer work hard to create opportunities.

And the first steps of the Royals comeback were put in place. Pearson was a defensive stopper but also chipped in with 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Christ the King stormed back to capture a 73-66 win at Baruch College last Sunday night in a marquee high school matchup.

“I might think of the pressure before the game but once I get out there, it’s gone,” Pearson said after scoring 19 points and eight rebounds in an 86-57 win over St. Mary’s on December 7.

“I block out everything and I’m in the zone.”

It’s Pearson’s cool confidence that gives him an advantage as well as his emerging talent. He also has the ability to run, and he will be doing plenty of it as Oliva calls this the quickest team he has ever coached.

With Erving Walker and St. John’s University bound Malik Boothe, two quick speed demons pushing the ball, Pearson is going have to complete baskets throughout tradition. He will also have to man the post along with 6 foot 6 Andrew Gabriel.

“He (Oliva) told me to run the floor. Instead of staying outside, I got to get the defensive rebound because we are small,” Pearson said. “He told me if I ever stop running, it will be the weakness in my game.”

In the halfcourt, he is developing an array of post moves. He creates mismatches on the offensive end with his number of moves and a lefthanded delivery which is not easy to defend.

“I was always told that I’m awkward. It’s always hard to guard an awkward lefthander player so they always told me to use that to the best of my ability,”

But most importantly, because he is adept at handling the large pressure of a tight ballgame, Oliva has no hesitation to place Pearson in a big game in just his first full season on the varsity.

“He’s relaxed. He knows he’s good. He just has fun. Some kids just don’t have fun .out there. They fight it when they play. He just has fun,” Oliva says.

“Mentally, they take all these expectations from other people with them onto the court, but Ryan just goes out there and just has a grand old time. “

But if the season had started a few months ago, Pearson would not have been able to compete.

“I was playing in an open practice. I came down and twisted awkwardly. I found out I just torn my cartilage in my knee. It didn’t hurt much at first but I couldn’t straighten my leg,” Pearson said.

“I had this limp and about two or three weeks later, I had the surgery.” Sitting around for two months and missing most of the AAU summer season with Team Odom, he continued to bite his nails while waiting to get cleared to return.

Now that he is healthy, Pearson needs minutes on the floor time to regain his stamina.

And is he once again playing the sport he is devoted to. Atattoo located from the top of his right shoulder to his right elbow symbolizes his love for basketball. In script, the word Leslie is the name for his mother which he holds dear to his heart.

Pearson had a good showing when he was brought up in mid-season from the junior varsity. He held his own as CTK went to the catholic city and state title games before losing both to Rice High School.

Along with the pressures of performing with a top 25 nationally ranked team, the 16 year old feels his team it’s his team time to shine. Schools such as Memphis and St. John’s have been interested and he’ll get his dream to play at Madison Square Garden on January 14 against Wings Academy.

With a wide open CHSAA basketball league, the Royals are one of many contenders to capture the title. He believes his team is the top contender to beat. “I feel this team can get there,” Pearson says confidently about his team’s chances to win the CHSAA and New York State Federation championships in March. “I have no doubt. If we don’t get up there, I’ll be disappointed.”

Artie Cox, the head coach of the Royals JV men’s team and Team Odom, was disappointed to lose the Pearson midway through the campaign. But he feels that the Royals program was best served by the move and Pearson is more than ready to contribute his fair share. “The best thing about him is that he loves basketball. He could play everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week if he could. He’s a smart guy,” Cox said. “I can’t wait to see the final product.”

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