Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2024

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM JANUARY 2024 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE T o say that former Fighting Irish shooting guard Matt Ryan still pinches himself each day to be certain his NBA dream is for real would be a grand understatement. Out of the league and working as a DoorDash driver less than two years ago after being cut by the Denver Nuggets, Ryan was picked up by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022, when he appeared in 12 games and became a local legend with his game-winning three-point heroics. Ryan has since become a rotational regular and a steady contributor this season with the New Orleans Pelicans after the franchise claimed him off waivers Oct. 23. "It's everything I ever dreamed of," Ryan said of his new home. "I feel like I am still just getting started, still mak- ing a name for myself, and I just want to keep this thing going." A leg and an elbow injury recently sidelined Ryan for about three weeks, But his recovery is progressing nicely, and through his first 12 games with the Pelicans, the White Plains, N.Y., native was averaging career highs in minutes (22.9), points (9.3) and rebounds (2.3). Injuries to teammates provided Ryan the opportunity to make his first NBA career start Nov. 2, and he responded with a career-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 6 of 8 from three- point range, in 35 minutes. "After everything I have gone through the past few years, to start an NBA game, it was my opportunity," Ryan said after his career night. "I'm very fortunate, grateful for the opportunity and thank- ful to my teammates for finding me out there, having faith in me." A renowned sharpshooter during his two seasons at Notre Dame (2015-17) before transferring to Vanderbilt, Ryan is picking up where he left off during his college years. Through Dec. 6, Ryan was shooting 47.1 percent (32 of 68) from three-point range, which would rank seventh-best in the NBA if Ryan had enough attempts to qualify. A journeyman during his first two NBA seasons, Ryan has spent time with the Celtics, Lakers and Timberwolves before landing with the Pelicans. "Each game that I'm playing minutes I can't wait to get to the next game be- cause I feel like I'm getting into better shape, and the shots are falling," Ryan said. "I'm just sticking with it, not tak- ing it for granted, continuing to count my blessings and staying locked in." ✦ Matt Ryan Goes From DoorDash Driver To The NBA Through his first 12 games with the Pelicans, Ryan was averaging career highs in minutes (22.9), points (9.3) and rebounds (2.3). PHOTO COURTESY NEW ORLEANS PELICANS FIGHTING IRISH HEADLINERS Brandon Aubrey (Played soccer at Notre Dame from 2013-16), K, Dallas Cowboys (NFL) In a 33-13 blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles Dec. 10, the St. Louis native con- nected on field goals of 60 yards, 59 yards, 45 yards and 50 yards to push his season total to a perfect 30 of 30 for the season — an NFL record to start a career. The performance also made Aubrey the first NFL kicker to hit two field goals of 59 or more yards in the same game. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (2017-20), LB, Cleveland Browns (NFL) In a 29-12 loss to the Broncos Nov. 26, the Browns' budding superstar recorded a season-high 12 tackles, including 2 for loss. He also notched 1 sack and a forced fumble in the game. Through 12 games this season, the Hampton, Va., native ranked second on the Browns with 46 tackles. Kyren Williams (2019-21), RB, Los Angeles Rams (NFL) After missing four games with an ankle injury, the former Irish All-American returned to the Rams' lineup in a 37-14 win over Arizona Nov. 26, and recorded 143 rushing yards on 16 carries (8.9-yard average) and tallied a pair of receiving scores. In eight games this season, the St. Louis native had three 100-yard rushing games and led the Rams with 687 yards and 7 touchdowns.

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