Charlotte Hounds coach Jim Stagnitta knew that he was getting a prolific goal scorer when Ryan Brown joined the Major League Lacrosse team.
After all, the Calvert Hall product had just completed a stellar season for Johns Hopkins University after scoring the second-most career goals in the storied program’s history that reaches back to 1883.
By notching 41 goals in his final campaign at Homewood, Brown jumped ahead of a host of Hopkins legends on the list of all-time goals leaders, including current Hopkins offensive coordinator Bobby Benson, National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Jeff Cook, standout attackman Mike O'Neill, fellow Calvert Hall alum Franz Wittlesberger and Brian Piccola, to record his 159th goal — second only to Terry Riordan’s whopping 186 scores.
“I had seen Ryan play a lot during his college days,” said Stagnitta, a former coach at Washington and Lee University. “So I knew he could score. I just didn’t realize how well he can shoot with his (left) off-hand. He’s truly ambidextrous. I have never been around a guy who has such great velocity and accuracy with both hands like Ryan does. And he shoots from so many different with different release points.”
Stagnitta added that Brown, who started slowly in his professional debut, picked up steam as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings.
“You know, it’s a new league and he was a little nervous,” the coach said. “He was trying to fit in and was being too fine with his shot. I told him to just shoot the ball the way he was used to shooting and not worry so much about painting the corners (of the net).”
Brown compiled just four goals and two assists in his first three games until getting untracked.
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve,” Brown said about his introduction to professional athletics. “Everybody is so good out there that it’s a real challenge. I’m just trying to find my role.”
With Stagnitta’s advice in tow, Brown had his breakout game against the Atlanta Blaze when he totaled eight points on six goals — including one 2-pointer — in a 20-14 victory.
The performance earned Brown Cascade Rookie of the Week honors.
In his next game, which was also against the Blaze, Atlanta coach John Tucker changed his defensive strategy to help keep Brown under wraps.
“In the first game, we thought we could go with a shortstick defender against him,” said Tucker, a Towson resident whose son, Ryan Tucker (Gilman), and Deemer Class (Loyola Blakefield) often run on the same midfield for Atlanta. “But that didn’t work. He demands to be covered by a (long) pole. He’s not just an old-school, catch-and-shoot crease guy. He’s strong and he can shoot with both hands. In the second game, we didn’t want to leave him alone because he doesn’t need much room to score.”
Even though the Blaze held Brown to one goal, Charlotte prevailed in overtime, 15-14, to stay tied atop the league standings with a 6-3 record after winning just three times in 2015.
“To his credit, Ryan was very patient,” Stagnitta said. “The fact that he’s drawing that kind of attention says a lot about how well he’s playing.”
The next battle facing Brown will be to stay healthy as the season winds down and the playoffs loom.
“I’ve been playing since Jan. 10 (when the preseason started), so I can definitely feel the wear and tear on my body.”
A bad ankle and sore wrist that took a toll on Brown during the college season have not stopped Brown from becoming the Hounds’ fourth-leading scorer as a rookie.
“We knew he was banged-up during the season,” Stagnitta said about the repeat Second Team All-America selectee. “We gave him two weeks off after the season so he’d be ready to go.”