Cameron Indoor Stadium or Augusta National? Rupp Arena or Pebble Peach? The Palestra or Oakmont?
For Ryan Meis, the choice is simple.
“Packed arena over a nice golf course any day,” he said.
The Bethel Park High School senior hits the links with a 7-handicap without much effort, but maintains a 22-point scoring average on the hardwood with plenty of practice.
And then there’s the musician in him.
In his spare time, Meis is learning how to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix.
“I’m just learning, teaching myself,” he said. “I’m not very good.”
Like his golf game, Meis doesn’t practice music with nearly as much intensity as he uses to hone his moves on the basketball court.
Meis recently scored 28 points against Upper St. Clair during a senior night performance, which included its fair share of impressive ball handling.
“I usually can’t hear the crowd, but when I went behind my back twice and laid it in, I heard a roar,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
Despite Bethel Park absorbing a 71-57 loss to USC, Panthers head coach Danny Holzer said Meis was one of the more “dynamic” players the WPIAL has seen in recent years.
“He’s a great scorer,” said Holzer. “He can hurt you off the dribble and he can hit the long-range shot. From what I have seen, he is also a great kid. I wish him the best. I’m glad he graduates this year.”
Meis reached 1,000 career points Dec. 13 during the Black Hawks’ 71-57 loss at Erie Cathedral Prep and finished the regular season as one of the WPIAL’s top 15 scorers. He also averages 6.6 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the Black Hawks (6-4, 13-8), who entered the playoffs as the third-place team in section behind Mt. Lebanon (9-1, 16-5) and USC (8-2, 19-3).
Meis will continue his basketball career at Seton Hill. He said he began to receive interest from college recruiters after foregoing playing baseball and golf competitively for much of his high school career to focus on basketball.
“As much as I loved baseball, I had to focus on AAU because I did not want to miss any opportunities,” Meis said. “AAU gave me great exposure to college coaches. It helped my game to play in front of so many recruiters. I also benefited from playing with and against some of the greatest competition from around the country.”
Meis also said his game has been benefited by watching NBA stars Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving.
“I don’t try to emulate a singular move, but I try to take nuances of them and incorporate them into my game,” he said. “Obviously, I can’t do it as perfectly as they do it.
“By watching the game from such a young age I have picked up what the pros and college players do,” he added. “Incorporating and applying that to my game has required a lot of hard work. Those guys are in the pros for a reason. So I try to learn as much as I can. I fell in love with developing my game and getting better. I’ve worked tirelessly at it.”
In addition to his normal team practices, Meis performs daily shooting and ball-handling drills. Either before or after practice, he commits to making 200 shots. He said he throws in “a ton of free throws” and lifts weights three to four times a week.
And Meis gets all the basketball advice he needs at home. His father, Jeff, and his uncle, Kevin, excelled at Baldwin, and after her playing days, his grandmother, Janet, worked as a referee for 25 years.
“Basketball is in my blood,” said the 17-year-old son of Leigh Meis. “No doubt my dad was the biggest influence in my career. He started my brother and me out on those Little Tykes hoops. Then we’d play in the driveway and I’d watch games with him. So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been around the game.”
Meis would love to be around the high school game for a few more weeks.
Bethel Park qualified for the WPIAL playoffs and will battle North Allegheny at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at North Hills in first-round action.
Meis is focused “100%” on helping the Black Hawks learn from the regular season, which featured tough losses at home against USC and Mt. Lebanon.
“Against USC, we had a lot of energy and jumped on them, but they are a great team and we knew they would not go down easy,” Meis said. “We made too many mistakes and they knocked down the big shots down the stretch. Same thing with Mt. Lebanon. With those teams, you have to be focused for 32 minutes. You can’t slip up because the tide can turn so quickly.
“Those experiences, those losses will help us in the playoffs,” he added. “We’ve been in games that have come down to one or two possessions. We’ve been battle-tested. We’ve been on the short end of close games. There isn’t any situation that we haven’t faced yet. As a group, we can’t take a possession off. If we focus for 32 minutes, then we will be prepared no matter the situation.”
As a senior captain, Meis is prepared to make that final push for a WPIAL championship.
“Anything that comes my way, I’ve been there so I try to guide my teammates on the court,” he said. “All five seniors have experience and we all feed off each other. We have been playing together forever, since fourth grade, and we have enjoyed every moment we’ve had together. As long as I am with these guys, my best friends, I want to enjoy every moment.”