As a freshman in 2018, Ryan McGee made the varsity boys’ lacrosse team at Red Bank Regional High School.
But the attack man quickly realized that he was overmatched against bigger, stronger defenders.
He needed to add muscle and strength, so he committed to a three-day workout routine that included a push day, a pull day and a leg day. McGee stuck to the routine from the summer on through February 2019, and gained 30 pounds of muscle.
It paid off on the lacrosse pitch this spring. The sophomore ended the regular season as Red Bank’s leading scorer with 48 goals and 19 assists.
He also sparked an improving program. The Buccaneers went 1-17 in 2017, the year before McGee arrived, and improved to 7-12 in 2018.
But this year, the Bucs finished 8-9 in the regular season. They also found a player to build around for the next couple years in McGee. With a scorer like McGee, Red Bank can potentially compete with anybody, perhaps even Shore Conference powers like Manasquan High School and Wall High School.
Those are the New Jersey powers that the Bucs are aspiring to become.
“We can for sure,” McGee said.
Like the many talents on those teams, McGee discovered lacrosse at a young age, realized he was a natural and has been playing ever since.
When McGee was in second grade, his parents enrolled him in a Little Silver lacrosse clinic. The kid loved the strange new sport that was spreading across the Northeast region of the country. He also loved it a whole lot more than the other spring sport he tried at the time, America’s pastime: baseball.
“I just had a better connection with lacrosse,” he said. “I can see things unfolding that I can’t see in baseball.”
Between natural talent and years of playing, McGee entered high school with precocious stick skills. He just had to get stronger.
But even in March before the season started, he wasn’t sure if his routine had worked. Then he played in Red Bank’s season opener at home versus St. Rose High School on March 27.
Early in the game, McGee held the ball on the wing and charged forward. He shoved his shoulder into the defender, got to the goal and blasted the ball past the goalie. Minutes later, he did the same thing.
The sophomore ended the game with five goals and three assists in Red Bank’s 14-8 victory.
“By the third quarter I realized that I’m no longer getting pushed around,” he said. “I can use my body as a tool.”
“Defenses are doubling him,” reported Matt Norman, Red Bank’s coach. “But he still makes things happen.”
And this is only the beginning for the sophomore. He is aiming for 200 career goals by the time he graduates in 2021.
But most importantly, in the future McGee wants to lead his team to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and to the state sectional quarterfinals. Like the great British statesman Edmund Burke, he is a proponent of slow, steady progress.
You would expect nothing less from the kid who used an offseason to add the one quality he lacked.
“I just hope we keep improving,” McGee said.