MTHS grad gets second chance at basketball; heads to championship tourney this weekend

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The 2013-2014 Highline Community College Thunderbirds; MTHS alum Ryan Swanstrom is No. 32, just left of the center court line.
The 2013-2014 Highline Community College Thunderbirds; MTHS alum Ryan Swanstrom is No. 32, just left of the center court line.

After injury and circumstance interrupted the playing time for former Mountlake Terrace Hawk Ryan Swanstrom over the past three years, basketball is again front and center for the 6-8 college sophomore. Swanstrom will be taking the court as a member of the Highline Community College Thunderbirds at this weekend’s NWAACC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament in Kennewick.

Highline will be facing Clackamas in the opening round of the double-elimination tourney on Saturday, Mar. 1, at noon. The championship game of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) four-day tournament is set for Tuesday, March 4, at 8 p.m.

Swanstrom, while coming off the bench for the Thunderbirds, is getting plenty of playing time on the 20-7 squad. He’s averaging almost 10 minutes a game, with a shooting percentage of 53 percent from the field, 71 percent from the free-throw line. “He provides us with some back-up size on the glass and defensively,” said Head Coach Che Dawson.

Getting any time on the basketball court looked questionable for Swanstrom at times over the past three years. During his final year at Mountlake Terrace High School, he broke an ankle and missed most of the season. “I got to play in the last two games of the regular season and the playoffs,” Swanstrom said. “I did get to play on Senior Night.”

After graduating from high school in June 2011, Swanstrom played at North Seattle Community College one season before the school dropped its basketball program in the fall of 2012. “I was devastated,” Swanstrom confessed. His heartache was compounded knowing he probably wouldn’t play again with fellow MTHS alums Jacob Champoux and Zack Karels, both members of that final Storm squad in 2011-2012.

Wanting to continue his education and still play basketball, Swanstrom transferred to Highline, where he redshirted during the 2012-2013 season. Then last spring, Swanstrom broke his right wrist, an injury that required surgery in advance of the 2013-2014 season. He started the season playing with the wrist wrapped, but now reports no ill effects from the injury.

Playing consistently and injury-free, Swanstrom is once again enthusiastic when asked about basketball, and especially about the Thunderbirds’ prospects for this coming weekend.

“This is the best team I’ve ever seen play in the NWAACC,” Swanstrom said of Highline. “We have a starter for a back-up at each position. There is no reason why we shouldn’t come home with some hardware and get fitted for some (championship) rings.”

Swanstrom is looking to continue to play basketball after leaving Highline this year. “I’m hoping to transfer on to a D-I, D-II, maybe a NAIA school,” he said. He is also focused on obtaining a graphic design degree, a major that will likely limit his basketball options in terms of schools offering that program. “While I want to play basketball, there’s no point in going to a school with no graphic design degrees,” he explained.

Although Swanstrom is looking ahead, the Hawk alum doesn’t forget from where he came. Swanstrom has been spending time the past couple of summers working with Terrace basketball players during open gym times at the high school, something that hasn’t been missed by MTHS Head Coach Nalin Sood. “Ryan’s always been a great alumni play to have as an ambassador for MTHS,” Sood said, calling the 2011 graduate a “good role model for our younger student athletes.”

But neither the past nor the future is on the mind of Swanstrom this week – only the Thunderbirds’ opportunity at the upcoming NWAACC championship tourney.

“We have a huge chance to go win this tournament,” Swanstrom concluded.

You can view the entire NWAACC Men’s Basketball Championship bracket here.

— By Doug Petrowski

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