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Paris running point to perfection

Zaire Paris has taken over as the Ryan point guard this year. JOE MASON / TIMES PHOTO

It took a little time, but Zaire Paris finally got the point.

Paris is a senior guard on the Archbishop Ryan High School boys basketball team, and last year, when the Raiders had veteran ball handlers, Paris was able to run wild.

He would use his athleticism to get out and run, he could handle the ball when needed, but he was a scorer. He would slash, shoot and do whatever he could to pile up points.

That changed this year.

He still had all that ability, but Paris was moved to the point guard spot this year, and his responsibilities on the court are a lot different.

It took a lot of hard work, and some tough love, to get him ready for the new position.

“I worked really hard on it, but even at the start of the year, I was shooting too much,” said Paris, who lives not far from Germantown. “I wasn’t being selfish, I was just used to playing that way. Coach Joe (Zeglinski) had to talk to me. He told me they needed me to be the point guard, to shoot less.

“It was hard, but I worked really hard on this. I worked all summer and my dad helped me a whole lot. He played basketball, he went to Olney. So he knows how to play and he helped me a whole lot this summer. And we played in leagues. I knew what to do, I just had to do it.”

After a rough preseason that included games against some of the best teams in the nation, as well as a Catholic League schedule that is packed with top teams, Paris has settled into the new position, but when the situation calls for it, he can still be a dynamic scorer capable of big buckets.

His biggest arguably came Monday night when he scored with six seconds left to put Ryan over Archbishop Wood 55-54 in a game that saw the intensity level grow as the game went on.

Wood had a chance to win the game, but missed a shot, and a layup follow was a few milliseconds after the final horn sounded.

Paris finished with 12, while franchise center Thomas Sorber added 19 despite missing five minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls. He also played the bulk of the second half with four fouls, but to his credit he never fouled out.

It was a tight game, but Paris was happy to help out in the scoring column to win the game for the Raiders.

“I like doing anything I can to help the team win,” Paris said. “That’s why I worked so hard. I really worked hard to become a better player. 

“We’re lucky because there are so many guys on this team who can do so many different things. We have a lot of guys who can score. When we need it, I’ll score. But I’m happy just doing whatever I need to do to make sure everyone gets open. That’s my job and I’m going to make sure I do it.”

With Paris running the show, the Raiders have had a solid season that continues to get better.

It started with an incredibly challenging nonleague schedule that saw the Raiders go up against some of the best teams in the country.

“Those games helped us so much, I know they helped me a lot,” Paris said. “We knew they were going to be tough games, but that’s what we wanted. We wanted to play against the best. When you get in the Catholic League, you’re going to play great teams, so you have to get ready for that by playing top teams. I think you can see how much it helped us.”

After finishing the difficult preseason schedule, the Raiders jumped into their Catholic League schedule, and after a 2-2 start, the Raiders have won five in a row to put them in the thick of things for a home game in the playoffs.

It won’t be easy.

Ryan is battling it out with top teams including Roman Catholic, St. Joe’s Prep, West Catholic, Archbishop Wood and the defending champion Neumann-Goretti.

Last year, Ryan finished in sixth place, but like most teams coached by Joe Zeglinski, the team was playing better at the end of the season and advanced to the Catholic League championship game. The Raiders have made the Catholic League semifinals in five of the past seven seasons, which means playing a game at the Palestra.

“Our goal is to get there and win,” Paris said. “We have a team. We’re playing really well, and we’re getting better. We’re a family. We’ve been that way since the beginning, even during the summer. A lot of the guys are from last year and the rest fit in perfectly. We want to win for each other.”

A championship isn’t the only thing Paris is seeking.

He’s hoping to get a scholarship so he can continue his basketball career next year. He’s heard from some schools, and hopes others inquire soon.

“I just want to play basketball next year and keep bettering myself, keep getting better,” said Paris, who is looking toward a major in business entrepreneurship. “I know I can play and I’m still working hard to get better. I’m ready to play, I just need the offers.” 

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