Nick Ring a big help for Muncy

When many outside Muncy watch Nick Ring play basketball, the first question they ask is whether he also plays football.

That happens when one is 6-foot-3 and more than 250 pounds. For the record, Ring does play football and is a solid lineman for a two-time playoff qualifier. But he is every bit the basketball player too. He is quite a good one too.

Ring has flourished in his first year as a starter, averaging a double-double and being instrumental to Muncy reaching the Class A state tournament for a second straight year. Ring and Muncy play Mahanoy Area in their state opener Friday. This after, he scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 51-46 District 4 third-place win over Lourdes last Friday.

“Inside he (Ring) killed us,” Lourdes coach Pete Long said. “Every time we made a run he came up with a basket.”

Ring was dominant in the second half, scoring 13 of his points and grabbing eight rebounds, many offensive. The game was tied at the half, but once Ring started taking over Muncy grabbed control and pulled away for another big win. A year after its two leading scorers graduated, Muncy (18-7) is state tournament-bound again.

Give the player so many think is just a football specialist an assist for helping make it happen.

“Nick is definitely somebody you have to be aware of,” Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. “His stats have spoken for themselves all year.”

“Nick is a big help for us,” senior point guard Ammar Sabanovic said after Ring scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a district quarterfinal win over Mansfield. “When they come out he’s always open.”

That is a dimension Ring has added this year. When Muncy made its run last year, it did so without a true big man. Now, Sabanovic is usually the fastest player on the court and players like Dawson Fox, Billy Kolletzki and Teddy Clark all are threats from anywhere on the court. Try and take Ring away and it frees those players up. Focus on the other four and Ring can dominate.

It has been a true breakout performance from a junior who barely played any varsity minutes last season. Instead of Muncy going into rebuilding mode, Ring has helped Muncy build on last year’s success, averaging 15 points and more than 10 rebounds per game.

“Last year I never thought I’d be in the position I am now so I feel like I’ve evolved greatly with conditioning and everything else,” Ring said. “Ammar is the best point guard in the area, I think, Dawson is a great scorer, Billy is a great shooter and Ted does a great job so all of them open it up for me.”

Ring has outstanding touch and is deceptively quick. Muncy loves to play an up-tempo game and Ring has no problems keeping up. In fact, he has thrived in the fast-paced offense. He proved that in his first varsity start, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against District 4 Class AA runner-up Wellsboro. All he did after that was record seven more consecutive double-doubles.

There have been no growing pains. Instead of playing like an untested rookie, Ring has looked like a veteran leader all season.

When Muncy needed him most, Ring shined brightest against Lourdes and made four of his final shots while controlling the glass against a feisty and hard-working team. He also recorded his 18th double-double and is now averaging 16.3 points during the postseason. It has been quite a run for a player who is building his own legacy after his older brother Matt excelled in three sports at Muncy from 2007-2010.

And it has been the product of good old-fashioned work.

“The potential was there,” Gresh said. “He put in a really tough spring last year. He played AAU ball with (Williamsport’s) Isaiah Washington and (St. John Neumann’s) Alize Johnson and he lost about 25 pounds. He put on quite a bit of muscle too. You have to give him the credit. We challenged him and he responded.”

Those outside Muncy can wonder all they want. The football player can play some outstanding basketball. Just call him a two-sport standout from now on.