Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
Ryanne Allen found herself on her back, letting loose a yell as her Archbishop Wood teammates swarmed toward her.
It was the end of the third quarter in last year's Philadelphia Catholic League championship game, and the 6-foot-1 Allen had just stepped back on a defender and drilled a buzzer-beating three that put the Vikings on the home path to the title.
Ryanne Allen was a team captain for Archbishop Wood last season, leading the Vikings to a PCL title. (Photo courtesy of Ryanne Allen)
Moments like that have been more than plentiful for the sharpshooting Wood senior, part of the reason she had more than 20 Division I programs vying for her services at the next level.
Hitting a clutch shot in a big game is nothing for the Perkasie native, but selecting the right place to call home the next four years was a definite pressure situation.
Just like she tries not to let an oncoming defender alter her shot, Allen didn't rush her decision and committed to Vanderbilt University on Monday night after taking an official visit to campus this weekend.
"With Covid and everything, the process was definitely harder than I expected it would be," Allen said. "My parents really helped me out and I just had to trust the process and be patient. That's just what I did and going on this official visit to Vandy, I loved it, everything was in place with the coaching staff, the team, the culture, I fell in love with everything about it."
Anyone who has seen Allen — who earned first team All-PCL and first team Class 4A all-state merits last year — play probably only needs a few minutes to recognize why she was such a touted prospect. After all, getting a 6-foot-1 wing that shoots better than 40 percent from behind the 3-point line isn't exactly common.
Allen, rated a four-star prospect and No. 65 overall in the Class of 2022 by ESPN, has the numbers and plaudits to back it all up but has also more than paid her dues behind closed doors. The senior's long offer sheet started with St. Joseph's and only expanded, including Drexel, La Salle and Villanova and out-of-state schools Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, Princeton and plenty more.
Archbishop Wood coach Mike McDonald, who also coaches with the Mid-Atlantic Magic AAU program, has known Allen since she was in the fifth grade and has plenty of first-hand knowledge of that work ethic and toughness.
"I'm just thrilled for her as a person, she's been a great kid from the time I met her in fifth grade when she came to our camp and she's always been the kid happy to be in the gym," McDonald said. "Watching her get to make her own choice about where she wants to go and play in college, it's pretty awesome because she's been so special. I'm really lucky just to know her but also coaching her has been a blessing and obviously, she makes us a lot better."
Allen had her first contact with Vanderbilt in 2020, earning an offer from the SEC program in December, but her interest got much more involved this past spring. The Commodores named Shea Ralph, a seven-time national champion as a player and coach, as head coach in April, drawing her away from an assistant role at her alma mater, UConn.
Ralph, a former Big East Player of the Year, reached out to Allen just before she started her AAU season with Philly Rise under Kevin Lynch, who also coached her with the Philly Belles. Allen admitted the Commodores weren't high on her list but as the new staff continued to stay in touch and come to see her play, the relationship got stronger.
Finally, everything came together this past weekend when Allen and her family were able to take an official visit to the campus just outside Nashville, and she knew pretty quickly it was her place to be.
"I believed in what Coach Ralph and the rest of the staff were going to do at Vandy and I wanted to be a part of that," Allen said. "I had that gut feeling I see all those other players talk about, I stepped on campus and knew 'this is it.'"
Archbishop Wood's Ryanne Allen averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season. (Photo courtesy of Ryanne Allen)
Everything worked out, but Allen admitted it was anything but easy letting things play out. The pandemic made the recruitment process difficult, limiting her mainly to Zoom calls with coaches and unable to find that feeling she believed would take her to the right landing spot.
"I didn't expect myself to be that patient, it was getting hard because you see all your friends start to commit and you start thinking 'is it time for me?'," Allen said. "I had my parents there to remind me it's my process and if I was patient, good things would come and that's exactly what happened."
Allen comes from a basketball family. Her parents Amanda and Jamie both played Division I ball at Rider and her twin brother Tyson is part of Wood's boys' basketball program. Ryanne called her brother, who is primed for a key role with the Vikings this season, a huge inspiration and a huge relief when things got stressful for her during the recruiting process.
Tyson was also the first person Ryanne told when she decided to commit to Vanderbilt.
"That was super-special for me to have him be the one that found out first," Ryanne said. "He's always had my back and was there to support me throughout the entire process."
With her family's background, it didn't take long for Allen to pick up a ball and start playing. With her mom as her first coach, she was also going to find out quickly if she wanted to invest the time and effort it would take to go places as a basketball player.
It was right around the time she got to Wood that Allen started to realize she belonged on the court with anyone else. The Vikings always play a rigorous schedule on top of the PCL gauntlet and her AAU slate with the Belles and Philly Rise, which competed on the Nike EYBL circuit, was just as grueling. But Allen loved the challenge of playing against the best.
Her parents, twin brother and younger sister had been pillars of support every step of the way and always seemed to have the right advice or right distraction when Allen needed it.
"I'm super-stubborn, so for them to be there always pushing me to be the best I could be definitely helped," Allen said. "Even with Tyson, us working out together, he's always pushing me to be a better player and person. I'm thankful for all of that."
Beyond her family, Allen thanked the long list of coaches, teammates at every stop and friends for all the support they've provided along the way.
Allen is also an introspective player. At the end of every season, she goes back to watch film, identify weaknesses then get to work improving them. Whether it's with Wood, her AAU program, in the driveway with her brother or with her longtime trainer CJ Scott, Allen is often near a net working on her game.
Even coming off a state championship season, McDonald hasn't seen Allen resting on her laurels or coasting on her strengths. He's seen plenty of the senior in the gym working on her fitness, adjusting to the new 3-point line at the college level and trying to expand her post game with opponents keenly aware it's not a great idea to leave her open on the perimeter.
"On top of what we do in our program and even her AAU program, which is really high level and travelling across the country, it's every morning, she's either working on her own or working with her trainer CJ, she puts a lot of hours in a gym by herself," McDonald said. "It's what we emphasize to everybody, but she's really taken it upon herself to just constantly work."
Last year, Allen was named a team captain as a junior alongside seniors Kaitlyn Orihel (Villanova), Dana Kiefer (Bryant) and Noelle Baxter (Kutztown) and will fill the same role this coming season with classmates Bri Bowen (Delaware) and Shannon Morgan and junior Tess Fleming. Allen, who averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists last year, is looking forward to being a leader for her team.
"She's a leader by her actions, your work ethic always speaks volumes to everyone around you and the way she works and gets in the gym should really spread," McDonald said. "The expectation is she'll be an even better leader this year and we've seen that in open gyms already.
"She's fiery and she's competitive so if things aren't going the way we need them to, you'll see her step up and demand more out of her teammates and her teammates will respect it."
McDonald also wasn't surprised the process wasn't an easy one for Allen. He knew she wouldn't rush into a decision, and with her personality, she would have a tough time telling coaches and programs she was choosing another option.
The Vikings are eager to try and defend their PCL and PIAA crowns, although it won't be easy and McDonald is certainly not trying to let Allen leave the program any sooner than necessary. As far as she's grown in the last three years, he thinks her best is yet to come and that Allen can go as far as she wants to.
"She's a really incredible person that everybody enjoys having around and wherever she goes, people are going to love having her," McDonald said. "I think you're going to see a lot of Ryanne Allen over the next couple of years."
Allen, who had a busy summer playing in the Chosen League's all-star game and SLAM Summer Classic on top of the EYBL, said it's a bittersweet feeling to know her AAU career is over but she's also looking forward to her senior year at Wood. It's a senior year she'll be able to enjoy because she wasn't willing to fold to the pressure and instead wait for the right outcome to find her.
"The process taught me to be patient and if I stick to whatever I'm trying to get to, good things will happen," Allen said. "That's what happened with Vandy, they were never really in my top options but they brought in a new coaching staff and everything I wanted was right at my doorstep, which was cool to see it all pay off."