Alex Busch LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (NCC News) — Although Liverpool boys basketball fell in the Section V, Class AA Finals, the team made last year’s squad look like a whole different group of players.
And the players credit that to the change made in the offseason, when the Warriors brought in former Syracuse basketball star Ryan Blackwell as the new head coach. Blackwell played for the Orange for three seasons, and is most remembered for his game-winning shot in the 1998 Big East Tournament semifinals.
“I was very excited when I heard he was going to be coach,” senior guard Tyler Sullivan said. “He knows what it takes to play at the highest level.”
Blackwell played professionally for 10 years after college, for teams in France, England, Portugal, Uruguay and Japan — before coaching professional ball for four years in Japan. That all came before he decided to make a change and come back to Central New York. He grew up in nearby Rochester and went to college at SU, so the area was familiar for him.
He was recruited to take a job with an American Basketball Association team that was being formed in Syracuse, but that team folded before it could stand on two legs. So, he went the high school route and said he hasn’t regretted it once.
But, with the team only winning eight games all year last season, before Blackwell came in, he wasn’t sure from the start that they’d be able to be this successful as they have been this year — grabbing the no. 1 seed in Section V Class AA, as well as winning 18 games and making it to the sectional finals. If it weren’t for Sullivan’s injury just 90 seconds into the title game, the Warriors might have been able to win the whole thing.
“When I saw the guys over the summer I knew we had some good pieces. I wasn’t sure what we would have and how well we would do,” Blackwell said. “But I knew we would be competitive.”
The Warriors finished the season as the no. 2 ranked team in Central New York (large schools), according to the final media poll. But after a loss in the sectional finals, they will not be competing in the state tournament coming up this month.