Huntsville’s Ryan Kirkby aims to make mark with Laurier Golden Hawks
HUNTSVILLE - It’s the dream of every athlete to soar with eagles, but in the case of Ryan Kirkby, he is more than happy to just fly with a few hawks.
The 18-year-old Huntsville native is heading to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo this fall on a $5,000 basketball scholarship. The veteran of numerous games with the Huntsville High School and the Huntsville Hurricanes basketball programs will be in the classroom studying health sciences and also hitting the court to suit up with the vaunted Laurier Golden Hawks.
“I feel great. I can’t honestly wait for the season to start. That’s all I have been thinking about all summer.”
Kirkby brings a healthy resumé with him to Laurier. In his time with the HHS teams, the small forward assisted the Hoyas in winning three Muskoka-Parry Sound championships from 2009 to 2011.
He also started with the Hurricanes program from the age of 11, and helped the major bantam team win the Ontario Basketball Association title in 2008, capturing the tournament MVP award in the process.
However, Kirkby isn’t about to take all the accolades he has earned to date in his basketball career alone. He is quick to point out that he had a lot of help in developing his game over the years.
“Greg Stewart has played a very big role in my career. He coached me for six years and pushed me to be who I am today. He’s an amazing guy and a great coach.”
Perhaps Kirkby’s winning pedigree could lend a hand to a program that has shown promise in recent years, but has always come up short of expectations.
Last season, the Golden Hawks started with a 15-2 record, the team had some trouble ending the year, dropping four of their last five games before being eliminated early in the Ontario playoffs.
For his part, Kirkby said he will continue to work on his game, which he said is based on accurate shooting and his aggressive play.
“I do like to shoot and drive to the basket,” the six-foot, four-inch player stated.
It is that style of play and his winning background that led Laurier to offer Kirkby the scholarship, after school officials scouted him while he was playing for the Hurricanes this past year at southern Ontario tournaments.
“They scouted me at the end of March and into April at some tournaments in Hamilton, Burling and Waterloo. They then offered me a partial scholarship.”
While certain about his style of game, Kirkby readily admits that he did have some doubts about his basketball career as he moved forward with his post-secondary school plans.
He said that he was concerned at one point whether he could balance his schoolwork and the commitment needed to play for the Golden Hawks. He also said that while he is looking forward to heading to Laurier, the school wasn’t exactly his top choice on his list at the beginning.
“I wasn’t sure if I could do (balance school and basketball), but this past spring I changed my mind. And at first, I wasn’t sure what school I wanted to go to. My first choice was the University of Western Ontario. Ever since I was in Grade 11, Western was the school I liked. They offer a very good health sciences program. But I did some investigating and Laurier had a better basketball program so I contacted Laurier officials because I thought it was a school that would be a better fit for me.”
So far the fit seems to be just that, a better one. Kirkby is at the university every weekend, training with the Golden Hawks and he said that to date things have been going well.
“We have quite a few new guys and a lot of third and fourth-year players. It is a fairly good balance of experience and I have a lot of catching up to do. I am going to have to play stronger. Some of the other players are 6’10” or even seven feet tall. There are not that many guys that big at the OBA tournaments,” he said with a slight laugh.
He said that he plans to work on his strength, conditioning and quickness to be ready to compete against the bigger and more experienced players.
For now, Kirkby said he is enjoying his experience as one of the newest members of the Golden Hawks and is excited for the season to start.
Laurier’s season begins on Nov. 9 when they travel to Kingston to take on Queen’s University.