Dynamic scorer who can take over a game?
The Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team had many of the makings of what makes a team. The Raiders returned four starters from last year’s team — point guard Dom Vasquez, guard Jalen Snead, swingman Luke Boyd and wing Aaron Lemon-Warren — and they all bring something different to the table. The team also returns David Wise, who adds instant energy as soon as he’s inserted into the lineup.
The returning members of this year’s squad led Ryan to the Catholic League semifinals and a berth in the state 5A quarterfinals before the season was shut down due to coronavirus concerns.
This team had just about everything.
But the one thing they didn’t have was a stretch big man to do the dirty things down low and protect the rim.
That was until Christian Tomasco, a 6-foot-9 senior who starred at Bishop Eustace last year, decided he wanted to rejoin the Catholic League.
Tomasco, who lives in Moorestown, New Jersey, attended St. Joe’s Prep during his freshman year before going to the South Jersey prep school for his sophomore and junior years. He liked the school, but wanted to get back to playing in the Catholic League for more exposure, so he decided to attend Ryan, which is about a 25-minute drive from his home.
When he got there, he realized, systematically, he was going to be a perfect fit.
But team chemistry is a big thing.
How long would it take for the big man from Burlington County to jell with a group of guys who have been playing together for the better part of three years?
“Honestly, it was like two or three days until I was one of them,” Tomasco said. “It wasn’t long at all. They’re so great. I think you learn pretty quickly when you’re around a bunch of guys/kids, if you’re going to be a good fit, and I knew right away. They’re a fun group to be around and they just took me right in.
“The biggest thing, I think, is we all have the same goal. We all think we can, no, will win the championship. There’s not one guy on this team that disagrees with that. We know we have to work hard and play together. We have to work for it. But we all know that we can win the championship. That’s why we’re playing.”
Tomasco is happy he can add to the Raiders.
But since he got there, he’s learned that he can add a lot to his game as well.
While playing at Eustace, the Crusaders used Tomasco as a straight-up center, standing under the net, back to the basket. Every trip down court, the team would run set plays. At Ryan, it’s a completely different approach to the game.
And so far, even though he hasn’t had a lot of chances to play in actual games, he loves the way the Raiders play, and is looking forward to doing things the Ryan way.
“It’s great because the way we play, I’m allowed to do a lot of things I never did before at Eustace,” Tomasco said. “I can grab a rebound and push it. I’m able to play the (wing or power forward) in one possession, then go down on defense and play (center), then come down on offense and play the five. I’m able to do a lot of different things. Every guy on this team is versatile so you need to be able to do everything if you’re playing here.
“I’ve always been a big guy, so growing up, I was always playing underneath, but I wanted to grow my game. I’ve been working on it in AAU, and now I’m getting to do it at Ryan. I’ve worked hard on my outside game and I think it will help me as a player.”
So he’s fine-tuning his skills on the court, but since arriving at Ryan, he’s learning some other things, particularly from Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is intensity,” Tomasco said. “You can be intense every trip down the floor. This team is very intense. They love to play defense. Offensively, we have so many guys who can score and put up points, but the intensity on defense, that’s going to be a big part of our success.”
It will be a little while before Ryan finds out how much success they’ll have this year.
They should compete for a Catholic League championship, and the true test will come when it’s time to play for the title and, if things go the way it’s planned, a state championship. Ryan opened the season with a win over Lansdale Catholic, but suffered a surprising loss to Devon Prep on Monday.
This weekend will be a huge test. The Raiders play Bonner-Prendergast with the winner earning a spot in the state playoffs, then on Saturday they’ll meet Father Judge.
Tomasco is also looking to his future beyond Ryan, which could include a prep school.
“Everything is uncertain because of everything with COVID, so I might enroll as part of the 2022 class,” said Tomasco, who hopes to study business when he eventually gets to college. “I would like to take basketball as far as I can, and after that, I think business would be a good option after that’s over.”
Wherever he ends up, he’s happy about his final high school stop.
He loves being a part of the basketball team and is enjoying other aspects, too.
“You always worry how it will be, you don’t want your last year in high school to not be a positive one, but so far, I really like Ryan,” Tomasco said. “I’m really happy I’m part of this team. We did really well in (summer league) games before everything shut down. We are ready to play.”