Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Principal Lorenzo Russell and Basketball Coach Randy Stonewall emphasize that at Ryerson Elementary School, academic success leads to athletic success. This year, the 7th & 8th grade varsity boys basketball team proved it with a 51-8 record on the court and scholarship in the classroom. Team members take pride in both accomplishments.
    But, the road to the championship was not a smooth one. Russell pulled the plug on the 2008-09 season and disbanded the team because student athletes were not taking their academics seriously. This year, the law was laid down: Scholastic Responsibilities Come First! All team members must participate in the mandatory Homework Center & Tutoring Program. Athletes must turn in all assignments, maintain good grades, and have good behavior records in order to participate in the basketball program. Russell says it hurt him to cancel last year’s season, but his students weren’t getting the message.
    “The students’ test scores showed they had the ability – they just weren’t putting forth the effort in the classroom,” Russell explains. He emphasized three stages are required of Ryerson athletes:
 1.    Academics are paramount
 2.    Practice is necessary for team success, and
 3.    Students must help raise money to pay for transportation and to enter tournaments (He says schools are not allocated money for competitive sports or team transportation.)
    Coach Stonewall adds that when his players go on to high school and college, they will understand what is expected of them and not feel that as athletes they are privileged and can slide through on a free ride. He notes that Ryerson athletes sign contracts with the school promising to keep their grades high, maintain good behavior, and agreeing to participate in after-school programs.
    The Ryerson varsity won the Mayor Daley Sports Fest, the Kelly YMCA Holiday tournament, and played in the Crane, Austin Town Hall, Columbus Park, and Garfield Park Tournaments.
    Coach Stonewall is losing eight players at graduation, but the Ryerson 5th & 6th grade team made it to the Area semi-finals with a 7-2 record. Still, he hesitates to predict a Ryerson basketball dynasty. Principal Russell says he’s looking forward to a dynasty of scholars.

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