By Jim Sullivan
---- — Newburyport senior Ryan Short will never be confused for a superstar on the basketball court, but coach Tom L’Italien believes the forward’s contribution off the court can be quantified with the “superstar” label.
“I think what defines him is that he’s just got a great attitude,” L’Italien said. “I think that is the most important thing. No matter what the circumstances, he’s always making the best of it. Whether he is playing, not playing, whatever level he has been at, every coach has said to me, ‘Shorty has just got a great work ethic, and he’s got a great attitude.’ And on top of it all, he’s a great teammate.”
The oldest son of Newburyport High Hall-of-Famer Skip Short, Ryan has had a large shadow to come out from under, but in his singular fashion, he doesn’t see it that way at all.
“My dad is probably one of my biggest inspirations,” said Short. “He’s coached me ever since I was 5 or 6 years old. He’s been to almost every single one of my games and he’s always given me advice. It’s not a shadow — I think he’s trying to help me become great.”
It was Ryan’s devotion to his dad that caught L’Italien’s eye back when the forward was a freshman and asked for his dad’s old number, 22.
“He said it wasn’t a big deal, his father said it wasn’t a big deal,” said L’Italien. “But in this day and age, it is a big deal to us that a 14-year-old kid wanted to wear his dad’s number who played here. And that just speaks to the type of individual he is.”
A three-sport athlete (basketball, cross-country, baseball), Short is no slouch in the classroom either, having recently been accepted to Boston College and UMass Amherst. He hopes to study political science or economics with an eye toward law school.
Short knows it’s not just the flashy players that make up a team. It’s the guys that are there for practice first, work up a great sweat and genuinely want to help the team that make the engine hum.
“I know I don’t get a lot of time and stuff,” said Short. “But I just bring to practice and to games what I can bring. Just working my tail off every single day in practice, just being enthusiastic, vocal, being a leader. I do whatever I can to help my team out. I just love giving back to this program.”
“I think his teammates really appreciate him,” said L’Italien. “But I think, when they get older and they get into their mid-20s and start to establish themselves, I think they will look back and realize what a special individual Ryan is.”
With eight seniors and only one loss on the season, the Clippers (4-1) are looking to go deep into the state tournament. Short believes the Clippers will need to do the little things right to get there.
“Coach always talks about leaving our footprint,” said Short. “And a big footprint that we left was winning the (Institution for Savings) tournament at Christmas. He knows and we know that this team can be a great team and we can go places. We have to work harder in practice. We have to work each other harder. We have to prepare ourselves for what is ahead. Because we can go places, but it’s just a matter of working hard in practice.”
“We’ve had some good players in the past,” said L’Italien. “There’s been one Richie Burke. There’s been one Chris Barry. There’s been one Joe Clancy. There’s been one Matt Leavitt, one Chris Jayne. Those guys are one of a kind. Ryan Short is one of a kind. He’s not the most talented player, but he’s just got the best attitude. The best work ethic. He’s a fantastic teammate.
“Guys like that make the team. Guys like that could easily put wedges between teammates or not enjoy the experience and bring other guys down. But it is those guys that really pick up the bench, pick up the locker room, pick up positive communication around school. You can’t put a point total on it, but I know it helps the team.”