They’ve had a lot to cheer about.
Fans of the Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team are some of the loudest in the Catholic League, and over the past few years, the Raiders have certainly given them reasons to stand up and scream.
This year’s team alone has one of the best players in the Catholic League, one of the most electrifying players in the league and a roster full of guys who can score, defend and play the game the right way.
And while every Raider gets endless love from the crowd, it seems like “their guy” is Jaden Murray.
And those cheers are music to his ears.
“I really love our fans, and yeah, they do love me,” Murray said with a laugh. “I’ve been playing well this season, so they’re cheering me, but last season, I wasn’t playing my best and they were still cheering. This year, I am. The fans are contributing to me. They make me play well. Playing in front of your people, I love them and they love me.”
Murray has also returned the favor.
When he got to Ryan, the pandemic was in full effect. That meant fans weren’t allowed at every game. Once restrictions were lifted, when he wasn’t starring on the court, he was in the stands, firing everyone up.
It’s his way of giving back to the fans who help him.
“After COVID ended, I just wanted to go to everything at Ryan, football, soccer, girls basketball, everything,” Murray said. “I make every home game a home game. I go to see them win. They all come out for us. Mostly all the girls and boys teams come out for our team, so I wanted to do the same for them. I’m their fans, too.”
Murray certainly has a lot of fans, and if he has his way, those fans better save their voices, because starting Friday they’re going to be screaming for their Raiders for a long while.
The postseason begins Friday when the Raiders travel to St. Joe’s Prep in a matchup of the fourth-seeded Hawks and Ryan, the fifth seed.
It’s a rematch of the Catholic League opener where Prep upset Ryan early in the season.
Since then, both teams have played well. The winner of the game will head to the Palestra for the PCL semifinals.
There’s a lot of work to be done. The Catholic League is crazy tough. But so are the Raiders.
“We can win it all, we can win everything,” Murray said. “For us to win we have to play tough the whole game. From the start to finish. Finish quarters, finish games, finish halves. Close games out better. We lost a few games because we played great but didn’t close.”
Murray has been taking baby steps toward a PCL and state championship his entire career.
When he arrived as a freshman, he was on the team that went to the state championship.
A year later, when he was one of the key guys on the team, Ryan advanced to the Catholic League championship.
Last year, despite winning 10 games in Catholic League play, Ryan failed to make it to the Palestra for the first time in Murray’s career.
For most teams, that’s not a disappointment.
It’s hard to make the Palestra. There are at least six or seven teams every year who are qualified to play in the PCL semifinals. Getting there is hard.
But Murray has extremely high expectations for his team, and he’s hoping his days representing the Raiders have a lot of time left.
“The playoffs are the most fun, both my freshman and sophomore years were great,” Murray said. “I think going to the Catholic League championship was the best, for me, because I was playing a lot more than my freshman year.”
That’s why Murray worked so hard since last year ended.
He performed well all year, but now every game means everything.
“This year, I feel like I’m the third option behind Darren (Williams) and Thomas (Sorber),” Murray said. “I worked on all my game, my handle, my shot, I knew I could improve. It translated into the season this year. And my role is being a screener, but also being the point forward. It means a lot, knowing that coach Joe (Zeglinski) trusts me in late-game situations, that means a lot.
“The coaches mean a lot to us, they push us every day. They tell us what we can do better and the wrong things we do, they help us correct it. They want all of us to be successful. Of course in basketball, but they care just as much about us away from basketball.”
Murray has more supporters away from Ryan.
“My family has always believed in me since the day I touched a basketball,” Murray said. “I’ve had a lot of people in my corner. My coaches believe in me. And my teammates believe in me. I have great people around me.”
Next year, Murray hopes to continue his basketball career in college, and he wants to major in sports management.
While he’ll walk away from his Ryan teammates at the end of the year, they’re people who will always be in his life.
“I’ve been with these guys since freshman year,” he said. “Thomas got here sophomore year, and ever since, the stars, the bench, the younger guys, we just all clicked. Everyone on this team plays a huge part.
“Everyone. All our players. The coaches. The fans. We all love Ryan basketball and we love being together. It’s been great and we have more to do.”