Sports Person of the Week
Monde Plays Basketball with Passion
Ryan Monde is leading the North Branford boys’ basketball team as a senior captain, suiting up at the forward position for the Thunderbirds. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Monde)
While he tried several different sports as a youngster, Ryan Monde always preferred basketball. After playing through the youth ranks, Ryan took his skills to the North Branford boys’ basketball team, where he’s leading the T-Birds as both a starter and a captain this season.
Ryan played football, soccer, baseball, and golf while growing up, and he’s currently a member of the golf squad at North Branford. Among all the sports that he’s played, Ryan found his greatest passion on the basketball court.
“All my friends were playing. I had played other sports, so I thought I’d try this one to see if I like it better. It was my favorite over all the sports I played, so I just kept going,” says Ryan. “When I first started playing, I was absolutely clueless. I had no coordination. But I just kept playing. In middle school is when I realized I really enjoyed it and I could get better with it.”
Ryan started playing basketball in North Branford’s rec league in 1st grade. He played rec until 4th grade, when he also joined the town’s travel team.
Ryan went on to play for the boys’ basketball team at North Branford Intermediate School for three seasons.
At every step, Ryan made strides as a basketball player, while also learning valuable life lessons. As he progressed, Ryan saw the same improvement from both his teammates and competitors.
“You learn a lot through playing—the value of hard work, sportsmanship, friendships. You get to meet a lot of people,” Ryan says. “Since I grew up playing against the same towns every year, I got to see other kids on other teams grow up, as well. It was cool getting to know them and seeing them up to now.”
As a freshman, Ryan joined the Thunderbirds and played for the JV team. Even though he had plenty of experience in the sport, playing on the high school circuit gave Ryan an idea about the level of competition he’d be facing for the next four years.
“That transition was very clear. Right off the start, you could tell it was a different level of intensity. You could see that you were really going to have to work to succeed,” says Ryan. “I started working right away. I had a bunch of people helping me get adjusted, improve my game, and help me get to where I am now.”
Ryan mostly played JV during his sophomore year before making the leap to varsity as a junior last season. Ryan says that likes the faster pace and stiffer competition on the varsity level.
In order to make the varsity squad, Ryan had to build up his confidence. While he was afraid to make mistakes as a freshman, Ryan felt more comfortable with his skill set and became more aggressive on the court as his career unfolded. He started speaking up and leading his teammates. With this change in mentality, Ryan was named one of North Branford’s captains alongside fellow seniors Blake Pearson and Jake Saldutti for this season.
“It was really special. I had hoped to get it this year,” Ryan says. “I’m a good leader in the locker room. I’m close with all the guys. I do my best to help them and the coaches whenever I can.”
In addition to being named a captain, Ryan started seeing time at a different position in his senior campaign. Ryan grew up as a guard, but now standing 6-feet tall, he’s been playing more at the forward spot for North Branford. While he’s had to make some adjustments, Ryan has enjoys learning new skills and improving every aspect of his game.
“It has been challenging to get used to it, but I think I’ve managed pretty well. It was really only recently that I was taller than other people on our team,” says Ryan. “It’s fun getting to learn a new position and getting different skill sets involved. It helps my game better to have more tools when I play.”
John Donohue is in his first year as North Branford’s head coach, and it didn’t take him long to see Ryan’s abilities and work ethic on display. Coach Donohue says that the senior captain is always willing to do whatever it takes to help the T-Birds win and sets a great example of what he’s trying to build in the program.
“Ryan simply rolls up his sleeves and works hard, no matter what is asked of him,” Donohue says. “Sometimes, he has to play inside against bigger opponents and, other times, he’s matched up against quicker guards on the perimeter. No matter to him, as he never backs down from a challenge. Ryan has been a great leader for our program and a model for what we want our program to be about.”
There’s no question that basketball is Ryan’s favorite sport, and he loves playing it in the town of North Branford. It means a lot to Ryan that he gets to share his passion for the game with the T-Birds’ teammates.
“It’s special to be given the opportunity to be able to play. If anyone is able to get a chance to play, I recommend it,” says Ryan. “The guys on the team are great. I enjoy playing with all of them. When we play together, we play really well together. The chemistry in the locker room is fantastic. To grow up and see all the guys grow together is really special.”