By Clayton Collier
Having the opportunity to participate in college athletics is a rare opportunity all its own. Having your pick of some of your sport’s best collegiate programs in the country? That’s a chance few athletes ever get.
Shoreham-Wading River’s Ryan Bray, who will attend Cornell University this fall, had such an opportunity, with nearly half of the lacrosse programs on this season’s Warrior Division I Men’s Lacrosse Top 20 Poll giving him looks.
“I’m really excited to start at such a prestigious school that has a great lacrosse program,” Bray said. “I chose Cornell because it’s a beautiful area and had everything I wanted in a college, and more.”
His father, Rob, said his family is proud of his son’s accomplishment.
“As a parent, you never expect this from your kid,” he said. “But when it happens, it’s so surreal. It’s remarkable. He got himself into [Cornell] through his work ethic.”
The U.S. Lacrosse and Under Armour All-American attack saw interest from schools such as Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Duke University, the University of Notre Dame and Yale University, among others.
Bray had initially verbally committed to Ohio State University as a sophomore, but once his SAT scores reached Ivy League standards, Bray reneged on the Buckeyes’ offer a year later in favor of the Big Red. Bray’s father said the situation was a “growing experience” for his son.
“It was a very stressful time for Ryan,” he said. “But it’s kind of a no-brainer when you go from an Ohio State to an Ivy League school, and he handled it as maturely as possible.”
Cornell head coach Matt Kerwick said his program goes through the recruiting process somewhat slower in comparison to other schools, as he tends to research athletes more in-depth to see who is right for his team.
Although Kerwick said Bray will have a great opportunity to get playing time early, nothing is guaranteed. The two-time All-County selectee will have to earn his minutes; nonetheless, Kerwick said he is pleased to have Bray aboard.
“We thought he was a heck of a player,” he said. “We liked the way he played, he fit with the way we do things here at Cornell in terms of his intensity level and the way he looks at the game.”
Bray credits much of his development to former Shoreham-Wading River lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz, who he said helped him immensely as an athlete. Rotanz, who Rob Bray described as a phenomenal coach, was at the helm during the 2012 Suffolk County Rookie of the Year’s freshman and sophomore seasons, bringing Bray up to varsity as a ninth grader.
“He just held me to extremely high expectations, which helped me develop,” Bray said. “He stressed teamwork a lot.”
Bray also said his current coach, Mike Taylor, was helpful in understanding different offenses, which he believes will benefit him at the NCAA level.
Bray’s final high school game was a 12-11 overtime loss to Sayville in the Suffolk County B semifinals. Although an upsetting way to end it, Bray said he can look back and appreciate his career as a Wildcat, as he moves on to the next stage of his career.
“It was a little depressing, coming to realization that an era had come to an end,” he said. “But it also made me realize how close-knit I was with the kids I’ve played lacrosse with for so long.”