Matt Ryan seeks transfer from Notre Dame men's basketball program

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

What had become a frustrating season for myriad reasons ended March 18 for sophomore forward Matt Ryan when Notre Dame lost to West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

As Ryan sat in the corner of a quiet locker room nursing a turkey sandwich back in Buffalo, N.Y., he was asked about the future. His future.

Junior year is typically the time for upperclassmen in the Irish program to become main guys in the rotation. What did Ryan see as his role?

“I don’t know,” he responded.

Did Ryan believe he still could find one at Notre Dame?

“Yes,” he said before a long pause. “Yes.”

Turns out the answer is no and no.

Considered the top priority in the 2015 recruiting class and often touted by head coach Mike Brey as someone who could flirt with school records for 3-point shooting before his career concluded, Ryan was granted his official release Tuesday from the university, which opens the door for him to a transfer.

A native of Cortlandt Manor. N.Y., Ryan will sit out the 2017-18 seasons under NCAA transfer regulations. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Phone and text messages left Tuesday evening for Ryan were not returned.

A phone message for Brey was not returned. He did issue a statement through the university.

"We wish Matt nothing but the best in his career moving forward," Brey said. "He was a part of two great teams at Notre Dame and we fully support his decision to pursue his career in a different program."

Barring any roster additions or subtractions, the Irish will carry 10 scholarship players into the 2017-18 season. It was one that the 6-foot-7, 228-pound Ryan was expected to challenge for a starting spot with the graduation of senior captains V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia.

His departure opens the opportunity door for swingman Nikola Djogo, who sat out his freshman season to preserve a year of eligibility, and incoming freshman D.J. Harvey, a four-star prospect ranked among the nation’s Top 50.

The first player to transfer out of Notre Dame since swingman Cameron Biedscheid left midway through his sophomore season in December 2013, Ryan appeared in all 36 games for the Irish, but played a minimal role. He averaged 3.6 points and 0.9 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game. Only power forwards Austin Torres (7.3), Elijah Burns (4.0) and John Mooney (3.8) played fewer minutes.

As a freshman, Ryan averaged 5.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in 14.5 minutes. He also made all four of his career starts.

Ryan shot 43.4 percent from the field and from 3 this season. He made nine of his 10 free throws. Of his 99 shot attempts this season, 83 were behind the 3-point line. His 3-point field goal percentage would have ranked third in the league, but he did not qualify.

Busting up a Chicago State zone and busting loose for a career-high 23 points and seven 3-pointers the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Ryan expected to play more of a role moving forward, but rarely did.

After going for 17 points in 18 minutes two games later against North Carolina A&T, Ryan played at least 10 minutes only five times the rest of the season. He didn’t score double figures again until scoring 11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal game against Florida State. He went scoreless in 12 conference contests, including a run of five in a row and six of seven.

“I’ve been a little confused at times, definitely frustrated,” Ryan told the Tribune during that stretch. “That’s unfamiliar territory right now and definitely an adjustment for me.

“It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, the guys on the court are playing great basketball right now. It’s about being patient right now. It’s trust. Trust and patience.”

That patience apparently ran out over the last six weeks.

Ryan was noticeably unhappy with his role – sit and watch while Beachem logged the majority of the minutes from the wing forward spot – throughout the back end of the league schedule. But it looked as if Ryan had turned a corner late in the season, when he seemed more comfortable with being more than a spot-up shooter. He could put the ball on the floor. He could get to the basket. He would defend. Rebound. Compete.

He scored six points, including two dunks, in the first-round NCAA victory over Princeton, but did not play in the second half. Against West Virginia, Ryan scored eight points in 11 minutes, but played only four in the second half as Beachem and the Irish struggled to make shots.

A three-star prospect coming out of high school, Ryan also held scholarship offers from Iowa State, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Stanford and West Virginia. According to ACC transfer regulations, Ryan is prohibited from signing with another ACC school.