The men's college basketball world is focused on Houston with the FINAL FOUR playing out at NRG Stadium. This is a story about a college player you probably never heard of. Ryan Keenan was a young man who played at WCS and then walked on at Wake Forest. More important than round-ball,though, he is a terrific young man. The following, written on November 29, 2006, will show one facet of Mr. Keenan.
I saw Ryan right before the end of school the Friday before Thanksgiving break. Ryan Keenan is a 6'6" junior at Westbury Christian School who plays basketball in our varsity program. He was at his locker which is across from my classroom and I was standing in the hallway in the four minute passing period between classes. That afternoon, Ryan apologized. He apologized for not coming to my first period middle school girls' basketball practice that morning to work with our post players as we had scheduled. Ryan is an aid in another department the first hour of the day but he had worked it out to spend time with Aryamis, Tynae, Ruby, Jeannett, Haley, and Taraka on their drop steps and power moves. I was shocked by his apology. To be honest, I had forgotten he planned to come that day. One look at his face reminded me why.
Ryan is a really good kid. He is an excellent student and leader among our student body. He also excels at baseball but I think basketball is his first love. Roughly sixty-six hours before we had our conversation in the hall, our boys' team had been playing a traditionally strong Beaumont West Brook squad on their floor. In the process of going after a loose ball, Ryan and a young man on the Bruins collided. Actually, the other player's knee, coming in on a full sprint, crashed into Ryan's face, impacting in the area of his right eye. Reed Sutton, one of our coaches with years of experience on both the high school and college levels, told me it was the worst injury he had seen in a game. Ryan was transported to a Beaumont hospital where he spent the night and part of the following day. X-rays divulged three broken bones around the eye socket which contributed to vision problems he was experiencing. When I first saw him, the side of his face was reminiscent of Rocky Balboa after the first bout with Apollo Creed. Ryan has already endured one round of reconstructive surgery and he has been fitted for a molded, plastic mask. He told me he will resume playing in four weeks which I can't fathom but knowing Ryan, I don't dismiss his prediction. Many prayers at WCS were offered on Ryan's behalf the day after the mishap. That's why I was shocked at Ryan's apology. I thought it might be weeks before he could even return to school, let alone basketball. Facial injuries are very delicate matters but obviously, Ryan is not a fragile young man. I'll be there the night he returns to action.
A person's word used to be sacred in previous generations. A handshake was as binding as a legal document. In our current era, many people fulfill their promises when it's convenient and rationalize their failure to meet their obligation when it suits their purpose. My dealings with Ryan aren't extensive; several weeks of basketball camps and one year in my sophomore Life Of Christ Bible class. However, I am certain he is a man of his word. Psalm 15:4, in defining a man who will be welcomed into the presence of the Lord, states that he, "keeps his oath, even when it hurts." Technically, Ryan was unable to fulfill his oath fifteen days ago but I would call it being providentially hindered. Even though there was no way he could have been at our practice, he still felt the need to make it right to the expectations of his own conscience. Ryan didn't learn that accidentally. Someone taught him the value of a promise at a very young age. My educated guess would be a very proud mother and father. You know the old adage, "a face only a mother could love?" I would think that after the trauma of the past two weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Keenan have a special love for the face of their son that is healing with each passing day. The swelling in Ryan's face will subside; the swelling in their hearts will not.
Applicable quote of the day:
"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep."
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