Loyola Blakefield junior Ryan Conrad chose a path fewer high school stars are following these days -- playing three sports. He wasn't interested in specializing in just one or two.
The 2014 Towson Times male Athlete of the Year didn't consider giving up basketball and soccer to devote more time to his best and favorite sport -- lacrosse.
Athough Conrad committed to the Uniersity of Virginia after his freshman year and Inside Lacrosse Magazine named him the nation's top high school player last year for the Class of 2015, Conrad firmly held to his decision.
"I definitely have never thought of that," said Conrad, who lives in Lutherville. "I love playing all three, and I have done it my entire life.
"Every college and high school coach I talked to encouraged me to play as many sports as I can. Some of my good friends have given up two sports and just focused on lacrosse. But I think three sports will help me be the best lacrosse player I can be."
Conrad picked Virginia over offers from Duke, North Carolina, Maryland and Johns Hopkins.
The Dons needed him to be strong again this spring with the graduation of Devin McNamara (Villanova), who totaled 92 points for the 2013 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion Dons.
Conrad delivered, leading Loyola in goals (33), assists (22) and ground balls (68).
"This year, we wanted him to take on more responsibility," Loyola offensive coordinator Joe McFadden said. "We told him, 'You have to ignite our offense.' He came through. ... He was the guy with a big target. His goal production went up (22 to 33) even though the attention he was drawing also went up."
Conrad, who plays midfield, didn't mind the additional scrutiny from opponents.
"It motivated me to get better as a player," Conrad said. "I don't want to have a letdown for any of the expectations people have for me."
McFadden said Conrad's work ethic helps to set him apart.
"He just works like crazy in practice," the coach said. "He just plays hard every minute."
In soccer, Conrad might not have been the best player on the team as a sophomore, but the forward had the biggest highlights of the 2012 season. He scored both goals in the Dons' 2-0 victory over Gilman in the MIAA A Conference championship.
He followed that performance with a stellar junior season, leading Loyola in goals (10) to earn MIAA A Conference honors.
"He has such a hunger for the goal," Loyola soccer coach Lee Tschantret said. "Everybody likes to score, but a few guys will do anything to put the ball in the goal. He is one of those guys."
Conrad scored both of Loyola's goals in a 2-2 tie with Archbishop Curley on the road. His effort against DeMatha in mid-September stood out even more to Tschantret. He had a goal and shined on both ends of the field for 80 minutes.
"I thought he was awesome against DeMatha," Tschantret said. "He played against two defenders going Division I and held his own. He was a horse out there."
On the basketball court, Conrad didn't play much as a sophomore because he had two seniors in front of him, but he won the starting job at point guard this past winter.
"We really didn't know what to expect out of him," Loyola basketball coach Josh Davalli said. "We were pleasantly surprised. He grabbed the reins of point guard from Day 1 and did a really good job at both ends of the floor."
Conrad averaged six points, three rebounds and three assists per game. His top performances came in a 52-43 victory over Mount Carmel (10 points, 4 assists) in late January and a 64-62 overtime loss to Boys' Latin (13, 5).
"In the league (MIAA A Conference) we play in, to be a point guard you have to have really good control of the ball and handle a lot of pressure," Davalli said. "He was able to do that. He is not a full-time basketball player, but he would go up against guys that played at a high level and will be playing in college."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun