The Ultimate Sniper
How Johns Hopkins' Ryan Brown became the most dangerous shooter in college lacrosse
This article appears in the January edition of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.
One fall afternoon in 2012, when Ryan Brown was a quiet, easygoing freshman at Johns Hopkins, former Blue Jays teammate Wells Stanwick saw Brown announce his presence in the loudest way.
Stanwick, who had played club lacrosse with Brown and had competed against his fellow Baltimore native in the high-powered MIAA in high school, figured it was only a matter of time before Brown would reveal himself as a special part of the Blue Jays' future. With his smart, off-ball moves and his deadly accurate shot with each hand, Brown used the practice field that September day to put on a six-goal show.
"He scored some ridiculous goals," said Stanwick, who graduated last May. "He scored with both hands, scored from up top, dodged and scored, scored inside. It was crazy. You knew the coaches would figure out how to get him on the field."
With that, Brown began his rise toward becoming one of the most prolific scorers in Johns Hopkins history.
Heading into his senior season, Brown is in full bloom. He shattered the Blue Jays' single-season record with 61 goals as a second-team All-American last year, helping Johns Hopkins reach the NCAA semifinals for the first time in seven years.
Over the past two seasons, since moving back to attack after playing in 14 games as a midfielder and extra-man specialist in his freshman year, Brown has asserted himself with 101 goals.
And the person who appears least impressed with that number is Brown, who remains a low-key as ever.
"I know that's a lot of goals, but I really don't think about it, unless somebody brings it up," said Brown, who ranks seventh in school history with 118 career goals. "I'm more concerned with keeping my composure if I miss a couple, and not trying to be perfect. I want to make the defense honor everything I can do."
Except for the quick fist pump that follows most of his scores, Brown's game is virtually devoid of emotion. He's not known for his chatter on the field. Brown is well known for his obsessive work ethic as a shooter and his ability to anticipate and beat the endless defensive slides that come his way.
On game day, you might see Brown, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, change hands in heavy traffic to create a layup around the crease, or hit an offside corner from a tough angle, or burn an opposing goalie by stepping down and unleashing a 15-yard rocket.
"He requires special attention. He changes who you are as a defense," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "You can face guard him, which creates a lot of space for other players that can hurt you. You can't just slough in with a zone, because he's got so much range. Thank God we don't have a two-point line in lacrosse.
"Ryan scores like a Canadian and plays the field like an American," Starsia added. "At the moment, he is the ultimate sniper in our sport."
"Ryan can bring it with both hands, from any release point, and he shoots it harder than anyone I've ever played with," said Shack Stanwick, the Blue Jays' sophomore attackman who will look to feed Brown this spring with the same frequency his older brother did for two years. Brown led the NCAA by attempting 182 shots in 2015.
Clockwork: Overhand Shooting with Ryan Brown
Jan 3, 2015
Great shooters shoot overhand and leave the sidearm stuff to the amateurs. Brown likes to think of his body as a clock. When he shoots righty, he winds up at 11 o'clock and follows through at 5. Left-handed, his hands start at 1 and finish at 7.
Brown has scored at least one goal in 33 consecutive games, the longest active streak in Division I. He has unloaded eight goals on three different occasions, against Syracuse in 2014 and against Ohio State and Maryland in 2015. He produced at least four points in 11 games last year.
Brown smiled when he reflected on the road that brought him to Homewood.
"My path to here was a pretty roundabout one," he said.
Growing up in Eldersburg, Md., in Carroll County, where he was raised by Amy, a math teacher at Sykesville Middle School, and Bill, a Baltimore County Police Lieutenant, Brown took to lacrosse as a first-grader. It quickly became his favorite sport.
A natural right-hander, Brown also took the advice of his father early on and spent hours practicing his passing and shooting with his left hand. He thrived on attack at the recreation level. By middle school, Brown was playing with the Baltimore Lacrosse Club.
"Lacrosse isn't that big [in Carroll County]. I really didn't know how good Ryan was in elementary school," Bill Brown said. "By middle school, you could see signs of real potential."
Brown moved on as a high school freshman to Mount St. Joseph's in Baltimore, where he showcased his scoring ability and got more exposure than ever. But after one year, Brown felt the urge to join higher profile lacrosse school. That brought him to Calvert Hall, where he would lead the Cardinals to the MIAA "A" conference title as a senior with 39 goals and 14 assists.
Brown, who left Mount St. Joe's midway through his sophomore year, did have to sit out his sophomore season, due to MIAA transfer rules.
"I was freaking out about that a little bit," said Brown, who continued to play club lacrosse that spring. "That's an important year to be seen [by college coaches]. I was not a huge recruit at that point. After not going against MIAA guys for a whole year, I wondered if I'd still have it."
Photos by Brian Schneider
Before his junior year at Calvert Hall, Brown considered Navy and Bucknell, before verbally committing to Dartmouth, with its Ivy League education as a huge attraction. When Johns Hopkins called in the fall of 2010, following some excellent tournament showings by Brown, he changed direction.
"The lights went on for Ryan at that point," Bill Brown said. "With Hopkins, he knew he could get the education he wanted, and he knew he'd be at a school where lacrosse meant as much to them as it does to him. It was an easy decision."
Shooting Up the Charts
Amassing more than 100 goals over the last two seasons, Ryan Brown is about to eclipse some big names among Johns Hopkins' all-time leaders.
1. Terry Riordan - 184 (1992-95)
* National Lacrosse Hall of Famers
Brown's lacrosse passion was evident from the start at Homewood. He didn't flinch when Pietramala moved him to midfield as a freshman. And in the fall of his sophomore year, Brown knew the Blue Jays needed an attack presence on the left side.
"After two weeks of fall practice [in 2013], you could tell Ryan had worked hard all summer on his left-handed shooting," Johns Hopkins offensive coordinator Bobby Benson said. "He basically became our left-handed attackman. That was a huge turning point for him and for us."
Brown tied for the team lead with 40 goals as a sophomore, a season that included his breakout game — an eight-goal splash in a loss to Syracuse. He scored at least a goal in each of his 15 games. That was a warm-up for his monster year in 2015.
"Ryan is growing as a leader. He's in the best condition of his life," Pietramala said. "He doesn't get high or low, doesn't drop his head or slam his stick when he's missing shots. He works very hard with his God-given ability, and he's an extraordinarily confident player right now."
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