Spanning six years and a continent, UNC's Cormac Ryan calls career 'a dream come true'

Jadyn Watson-Fisher, The News & Observer on

Published in Basketball

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — February in South Bend, Indiana, is notoriously chilly, with highs barely above freezing and cloud cover unsurprising. Good days are when the wind chill doesn’t have a bite, and there’s enough sunlight to reflect off Notre Dame’s famed golden dome.

Sitting 20 minutes from the Michigan border, the city is what one might expect from a midwestern college town. Restaurants carry the typical American fare, residents have plenty of churches to choose from, and small museums educate visitors on the area’s history. A 15-minute drive separates one side of town from the other.

It’s slow paced and unassuming. Cormac Ryan spent four years playing basketball with the Fighting Irish after leaving Stanford.

He helped Notre Dame earn a 2022 NCAA Tournament bid, its first since 2017. He received the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award that season and remains one of the program’s best career free throw shooters. Off the court, he regularly volunteered with a local homeless shelter.

When Ryan first arrived in South Bend five years ago, he intended to end his collegiate career at Purcell Pavilion.

Then, Covid-19 happened. The NCAA gave student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. Coach Mike Brey retired last year and Ryan entered the transfer portal. Carolina came calling.


Opposing fans often taunt Armando Bacot, 23, for his five-year career with UNC. They forget Ryan, 25, is older and in his sixth year of school. He’s the only Tar Heel born in the 1990s.

Ryan didn’t anticipate being in school as long as he has. It’s finally coming to an end, though, and he’ll play his alma mater on senior night. The Tar Heels’ season won’t be over, but it’ll evoke gratitude for every opportunity along the way.

“I’ve been through a lot, and I know that there’s a lot left ahead, too,” Ryan told the News & Observer. “I’m grateful but I’m also excited. I’m looking forward to what we can do going into the postseason and wherever basketball takes me.”

‘As big as you can get in college basketball’


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