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Shannon takes over A-C girls hoops program

A coach's son, Ryan Shannon has been around the game of the basketball almost since he took his first breath and has grown to love the sport ever since.

Appropriate, given that he's signed on for the task of breathing some life back into a struggling Annville-Cleona girls basketball program.

A Mount Calvary Christian School grad, Shannon was hired last month as A-C's new head coach, succeeding Roger Hayes, who stepped down at the end of the 2016-17 season after three seasons at the helm.

In his place comes a young and eager Shannon, who spent the last three basketball seasons as an assistant at the Division II college level, first at California Baptist for two seasons, before moving to Henderson State University in Arkansas this past season.

"My dad was a high school coach for 30 years," Shannon said on Monday. "I was born at the end of June and I think on July 4th I was in a gym at a tournament with my mom. I've been involved in basketball my whole life. I just love the game, I love the ability to impact people's lives. Since I was 12 years old I wanted to be a basketball coach."

The opportunity for Shannon to run his own program - he's also been a student assistant at Elizabethtown College and helped out with local high school programs at Elizabethtown and Penn Manor - came about shortly after he and his wife moved back to the area in March.

"When my wife and I moved back here in March I was looking around, and they had an open position," Shannon said of the A-C job.  "And my father-in-law is a football official and he knew (athletic director) Tommy Long from when he was at Ephrata and said, 'He's a great guy, you should apply.' And so that's what I did.

"I just think Annville is one of those communities that has a lot of support for athletics. And I think the administration is definitely very supportive, from what I've seen. They kinda let you do what you want to do to be successful, and that's kinda why I was drawn to it."

He picked a challenge at A-C, which went just 16-50 in Hayes' three seasons and graduates its only double-figure scorer, Michaela Singer, from last season's 6-16 squad.

But Shannon is undaunted by the challenge ahead, and understandably excited about the opportunity at hand.

"It's pretty awesome." he said. "I guess that's the best way to say it. I'm really looking forward to being able to make my mark on the Annville-Cleona girls basketball program. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with it, but it's a great opportunity and I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Part of the challenge for Shannon is the fact that basketball, for the most part, is not the top sport of choice for female athletes at A-C, where softball, track and field and, recently, field hockey have been more successful programs year in and year out.

But that also means A-C's roster, which did enjoy good turnout during Hayes' tenure, is made up of plenty of multi-sport athletes who enjoy competing.

"I myself was a multi-sport athlete in HS, so I know the benefit of being a multi-sport athlete," Shannon said. "I think there's a lot of benefits to that. While  you may not have the girls that play AAU and go to open gyms all year round, I think you have a lot of girls that want to play basketball. And number two, you're gonna have great athletes. I think if you can get your best athletes playing you can have some success."

With the likes of Northern Lebanon, Lancaster Catholic and Lebanon Catholic in the way, success in Section 3 of the Lancaster-Lebanon League will be tough for A-C to achieve at the beginning of Shannon's tenure. So realistic goals and expectations will be a must as Shannon gets started.

"Section 3 is really tough to try to have some success in," Shannon admits. "I think you're definitely on the outside looking in no matter what you do, at least to start. So we're definitely going to focus on (qualifying for) districts to start.

"I think you have to look at it and say, 'How can we get better every day?'". That's something I'm really gonna push them about. Because if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. That's how it works. My goal, especially for the first year and the summer, is to get to know the program, get to know the girls, see what they can do and what they can't do, and build interest in the program."