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Scholastic Roundup: Brooklyn streetballer makes the big screen

July 23, 2021 Andy Furman
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Chris Mullin, the NBA Hall of Famer who attended Xaverian High and later St. John’s University once described him as, “the best shooter he’d ever seen who hadn’t played in the NBA.”

He was talking about John Jay High grad, Jack Ryan, who averaged 26 points-per-game as a senior. He later took his game to East 5th Street Park in Brooklyn, where he mastered the tricks and shots he became well known for.

In his first season in a recreational league at West 4th, Ryan played one game against Phil Sellers – the former Thomas Jefferson, Rutgers and later Detroit Pistons star.

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Ryan dropped 44 against him.

According to an article written by Bobbito Garcia about Ryan in Slam Magazine Streetball Special Collector’s Issue, Peter Vecsey – another Hall of Famer – who wrote about the NBA for the New York Post, USA Today and later worked for NBC Sports, got Ryan a tryout with the New Jersey Nets in 1990, but was the second-to-last man cut ending Ryan’s NBA aspirations.

In May, 2003 Ryan was named as one of Slam Magazine’s Greatest Playground Ballers of All Time.

And in 2005, he won the City Slam 3-Point Shooting Championships, which aired on ESPN. In a close final, Ryan edged out fellow streetball sharpshooter Deshun “Father Time” Jackson to take the title.

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“Black Jack” – a 2020 film, explores Jack Ryan’s history and attempted entry into the NBA.

This feature-length documentary follows the life of Jack “Black Jack” Ryan. Not only did he win the ESPN  3-point shooting championship, he is the first white player on the Harlem Wizards.

From Ira Berkow, then with The New York Times: “The first time Rick Carlisle saw Jack Ryan, he was less than impressed. It was in 1990, at a Nets rookie camp, when Carlisle was an assistant with then coach Bill Fitch.

“He had been recommended, though he didn’t have any real college-playing credentials – but we gave him a shot,” Carlisle recalled. “He was older, 29 years old, just about six-feet tall, and he looked like a California beach bum when he showed up. White guy, deep tan, long blond hair, mustache, big smile, a little overweight, not quite in shape.

“Fitch and I looked at each other, like ‘Oh?’ Then we saw him on the court. It was not what we expected. Where’d he come from? This guy could play!”

But, according to Berkow, it would not be a National Basketball Association career that Ryan would carve out for himself, not one in college. During what may have been his most productive basketball years, in fact, he was hauling hundreds of pounds of fish in a hand truck at the Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan.

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“In my 35 years in basketball,” said Pete Coakley, Ryan’s coach at John Jay High School, “Jack was the best high school player I ever had – one of the best I ever saw – and the biggest disappointment. He was totally talented and totally wild.”

Ryan was raised in Windsor Terrace – a heavily Irish area – and got to know the Mullins: Chris, who became an NBA All-Star and Terence, who also played at St. John’s.
Coakley sought to get him a college scholarship. “Loads of schools were interested, until they saw his grades,” Coakley said. Ohio University took a gamble but insisted that Ryan first go to a junior college to get his grades in order. He enrolled at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, and was swiftly thrown off the team for coming to practice drunk on a Saturday morning. He returned to Brooklyn, to the playgrounds and the fish market.

Back East, Seton Hall had some interest – but too much baggage he was told. He enrolled at Brooklyn College where he was spectacular in the first three games. Warned by the coach not to showboat, he showboated nonetheless, and was thrown off the team.

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The movie chronicles the summer in his life that he had a tryout with the New Jersey Nets.

And the movie shows the lows.

“What I really want to do with the movie is to be able to do speaking engagements,” Ryan said in the movie advance. “I’ve done a couple. Having the movie is going to help me even more to inspire people and help them find their purpose in life and become a leader.”

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR


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