Kremer: JT West Basketball Enjoys Modiest Surge
Watch: Joliet West senior guard Ryan Modiest put on a shooting clinic in the Tigers' recent victory over Sandburg. He made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points.
While it is true the Joliet West boys basketball team is lacking in overall size and does not have a dominant big man, it also is true the Tigers’ 6-foot-7 Andre Hardy has had his moments and continues to make progress.
And it is true Joliet West makes up for what it lacks in some areas with excellent coaching and team chemistry. The Tigers are a mature team featuring four-year starter Morris Dunnigan. He has grown up under the watchful eye of coach Luke Yaklich.
Three-year regular Brandon McCullum is as good a defensive-stopper as there is around. Carl Terrell and Tim Smith have come to understand their roles and chip in wherever and whenever is necessary. Sometimes that means scoring. More often, it means passing the ball and/or hitting the boards.
Then, there is Ryan Modiest, a 5-foot-10 senior guard who brings an added dimension to the Tigers’ offense. I watched him shoot Sandburg out of its 2-3 zone in Joliet West’s recent 59-41 victory over the Eagles.
He made four 3-pointers in the first quarter and five in the game en route to a career-high 19-point scoring explosion. He would have had a sixth 3-pointer except he had one foot on the line when he went up for a 19-footer that capped a 6-0 scoring run at the end of the third quarter for the Tigers.
Modiest can be a difference-maker for Joliet West (11-5) as it prepares to face Lockport on Friday night, then enters the regular season’s stretch run and girds for postseason play. I can picture him helping the Tigers roar in the Thornton Sectional even though the field will be stacked with a number of heavyweights, the list topped by Marian Catholic, Bloom Township, Homewood-Flossmoor, Crete-Monee and Andrew.
Sure, all eyes will be on Marian Catholic’s terrific point guard, Tyler Ulis, and Andrew’s powerful Jubril Adekoya. And, sure, if you blink, you might miss Modiest. That would be a mistake.
He has hit on about 40 percent of his 3-pointers and learned to make the most of his opportunities. And, with Dunnigan drawing the lion’s share of attention from Joliet West’s opponents, there will be more opportunities.
Modiest is the kind of player that can create March Madness. A cast of characters that recognize the value of a shooter surrounds him. When he is hot, Modiest can put the team on his back, carry the Tigers to the Promised Land.
“Our guys are really smart,” Yaklich said. “Our seniors have a really high basketball IQ. They understand each other and they are great at finding the guy with the hot hand. They trust Ryan (Modiest), and Ryan knows the ball is coming to him.
“And the great thing about him is he is always ready to shoot the basketball and he knows when he is open. Those are two key things a shooter has to have.”
Yaklich first called Modiest up to the varsity ranks when he was a quiet sophomore. His game has changed—right along with his personality.
“I call him a bulldog,” Yaklich said. “He’s a kid—we brought him up as a sophomore—he fought and learned what he could and couldn’t do as a sophomore, had a nice season last year as a junior role player. And, this year, he’s a case in point of all of our guys.
“When you keep working and you keep allowing yourself to be coached and you keep pushing yourself, you keep getting to the weight room and doing all the little things necessary—Ryan’s put himself in position for a great a senior year and he’s a great student-athlete.”
Modiest camps himself on the perimeter and finds the holes in defenses rigged to stop Dunnigan, Joliet West’s leading scorer and most explosive player, but he is careful not to pull the trigger on a 3-ball until the defense parts. He is guided by a sixth sense, if you will.
“I just take them as I go,” he said. “I try not to force 3s—get us out of rhythm—but just shoot my shots.”
Like all shooters, he feeds off his makes. You can see his confidence grow when his eyes light up—it is almost as if he is telepathically calling for the ball. His recent breakout is the result of hard work and dedication.
“I learned from our previous players on the team, just seeing how they played and I tried to adjust my game, knowing I had to get bigger and stronger and match the intensity of varsity-level ball,” Modiest said. “I handle pressure better and I’m stronger.”
He speaks with a modest voice. He lets his shooting do most of his talking.