CNHI News Service
Chances are if Ryne Callahan is left all alone, he will knock down shots.
As cliché as that sounds, the Rowan County Vikings do not mind one bit.
The junior played in 34 of Rowan County’s 35 games in the 2012-13 season, leading up to last year’s 16th Region Tournament in which he really took off.
Then, over the summer, Callahan got the green light and started scoring in bunches. It has carried over to this season.
His 19.1 points per game is the fifth highest in the 16th Region after averaging 6.7 points last season. He’s hitting 52 percent of his shots, including a blistering 42 percent from beyond the arc.
He has led Rowan County in scoring in 12 of their 19 games this season, including back-to-back 30-point games.
“My team believes in me and I believe in myself and my teammates,” Callahan said. “When I get the ball, they know I’m not going to shoot it every time and just ball hog it ... I’m going to move the ball to help us get quality possession.”
“It isn’t like he’s scoring on a bunch of high-volume shots,” said Vikings coach Shawn Thacker. “When you look at his shot chart, there are a few shots that you question but they’re few and far between and he’s doing it in different ways. He’s attacking the basket, getting to the free-throw line.”
He goes on personal runs. He knocks down shots in bulk at times and in a frenzy. If the Vikings are down two or three, don’t blink. Rowan County can go back up seven or eight in a span of two or three minutes with Callahan in.
“Once I hit that first shot, the goal becomes the ocean,” Callahan said. “I feel like everything is going to go in that I let go.”
Callahan has taken on the role of the pure scorer that Rowan County seems to find each season. Last year, Jalen Stone, who was used sparingly his first few seasons in green, exploded out of the gate to help lead the Vikings in scoring. He was a pivotal part of getting Rowan County back to the 16th Region championship game for the third straight season.
Could this be history repeating itself?
“Jalen stepped up crazy all of last year,” Callahan said. “After not playing at all until his senior season and him stepping up the way he did, it gave me motivation to come out this year and do that. I take some things from him and learned what it took be a leader like him.”
Just how important is Callahan to the Vikings’ success? You have to go back to the 2013 postseason.
Rowan County squared off againstMenifee County, a 4-22 team hosting the 61st District tournament. Callahan was not able to make it to the game because of sickness.
The Wildcats got hot from beyond the arc and had Rowan County on the ropes. Only a last second shot that seemed to hang on the rim for 15 seconds rolled off as the Vikings squeaked by Menifee County, 64-63.
“That goes unnoticed from last year,” Thacker said. “Last year he meant a lot to our basketball team and he means a lot this year. He stretches the defense and allows our guys to get drives to the basket. You got to pick your poison a bit with him.”
While he is leading the team in scoring, Callahan and the rest of the Vikings do not see him as a selfish player. While opponents are keying in on him defensively, it opens up other scoring opportunities for his teammates.
“He’s the best shooter on the team,” senior Hayden Pratt said. “He’s the reason why our offense is so good. He can get to the basket and draws a lot of ‘and-1s’. He is an all-around player for us.”
“When they need me to shoot it, I will,” Callahan said with a smile. “But it’s not about that. It’s about helping this team get better in time for the postseason.”
If Callahan and the Vikings expect to contend for another 16th Region title in March, Thacker said he needs his team to keep the gas pedal to the floor.
“It’s going to get tougher as we move down the road,” Thacker said. “There’s not a team in the region that doesn’t know they need to do a good job of guarding him. Other kids are going to have to step up because they’re going to be challenged to.”