HADDON HEIGHTS - With just six players, options were minimal.
Standing taller than any in that half dozen, the former Cherokee High School big man gave his team some final words. Holding a clipboard in his right hand, he made a few gestures with the other as he and the night’s sixth man headed toward the bench.
The horn sounded and it was time to play. … And it was time to coach.
“Even before you start dribbling, eyes up the court,” the 6-foot-9 gentle giant calmly said during the early moments of the first half, his alma mater slowly but surely building a lead on Eastern.
As much as the Garnets Summer League is an opportunity for players to develop chemistry and compete, it's also an opportunity for Ryan McKeaney to add some important experience to his resume. So as those in t-shirts ran up and down the floor, the 20 minutes running off the clock each half gave McKeaney his chance to perform, too.
“I like working with kids,” said McKeaney, a 2010 Cherokee grad who spent his first two collegiate seasons at Vermont before finishing out his career at West Chester.
“It’s important that I get used to drawing up plays, things like that.”
At 25, McKeaney cut his teeth helping at various summer camps the last few years. He served as an assistant at Cherokee during former coach Matt Shultz’s final season, while spending the past two as a JV/varsity assistant under Eric Cassidy.
Cassidy believes McKeaney has had a positive influence on the program, all the makings of someone capable of running their own team.
“Ryan is always trying to make the team and players better,” Cassidy said. “He is great with the players, and the players respect and look up to him.
“What stands out to me with Ryan is that he has all the traits you want in an assistant coach – trust, loyalty, mutual respect, dependability, accountability and responsibility. Ryan was a great player at Cherokee. I believe – if he wants to – that he will be an exceptional head coach one day.”
Scheduled to earn his teacher certification in December from Rider, McKeaney will spend the first half of the upcoming school year doing his student teaching at Kingston Elementary in Cherry Hill. He’s been an aide at Marlton Middle School the last three.
He also plans to be back on the Chiefs’ bench this winter, working toward the possibility of being a head coach down the road.
“If the opportunity comes in the right spot … I would love to be a head coach. It’s a lot of fun,” said McKeaney, who graduated from West Chester with a degree in history and political science.
“I went from ending my senior year to just hanging out. In the summer, I was doing camps – still do, five or six – and the opportunity (to coach) presented itself because I had the time. Since then, I’ve loved it."