Boys Basketball: Swanson brothers make their return
LAKE CITY - It took nearly 5,000 miles, but Ryan and Ben Swanson finally stepped onto their hometown's basketball court for the first time as high school players on Thursday.
Spending their youth in Lake City, the Swanson family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii before either Ryan or Ben got to play for the high school team. Though the family moved, the Swansons always kept in touch with their friends in Lake City.
"(Ryan) always could shoot," said Tigers guard Ben Schramski. "he was one of our better players back in the day, and he still would be if he were with us today. ... He's still a good friend. We still wish he was here with us."
Now at Mid-Pacific Institute, a private school in Honolulu, Ryan, a senior, and Ben, a sophomore, got a hometown cheer when they walked onto the parquet floor at Lincoln High School against the hometown Tigers.
"I couldn't wait to get going," Ryan Swanson said. "Talking to the guys on the team, we were all excited. It happened and it was awesome."
Ben Swanson added, "I always thought I was going to play varsity for Lake City, and I always thought I'd play varsity on this court. I just didn't think it would be for another team."
In hopes of bringing the Swanson boys home for the holidays, Lake City and Mid-Pacific made arrangements for the Owls to come to Minnesota.
During the Lake City Invite, the Mid-Pacific players are staying with the Lake City players' families, and the two teams have bonded in the short time.
"We talked about how fun it would be to get Ryan and Ben back here for a ball game. Ryan's a senior, he's grown up with these guys, they've been gone now for five or six years," said Tigers head boys basketball coach Shawn Sweeney. "Their oldest brother, Drew, played with us in high school. We corresponded with the parents. Quinn (Sweeney, Lake City's statistician) was behind a lot of this."
Making a trip across the Pacific Ocean and across half the continental U.S., it didn't take the Mid-Pacific players long to realize they were no longer in the warm confines of Hawaii.
"Right when we got out of the airport, that was the biggest shock," Ryan Swanson said. "Even for me and Ben, seeing our breath, everyone was shocked. ... Earlier (Thursday), we had a snowball fight, and (our team) had no idea how to do a snow fight. But it was a great experience."
The two teams continued to bond on Wednesday over food and video games. But before then, the friendly trash-talking was well underway before the holiday tournament.
"We were texting Swan, calling him up," Schramski said. "We had a get-together (Wednesday) night, playing video games on the couch, and that was a lot of fun talking trash with him and getting him going."
Coming into Thursday's game with a 4-5 record, the Swanson brothers have been impactful players for the Owls. Ryan Swanson is the team's top scorer with 20.0 points per game, and Ben Swanson averaged 4.3 points and has grabbed 17 rebounds off the bench.
The Tigers game plan revolved on slowing down Ryan Swanson, and was executed effectively as Lake City held him to five points in a 57-34 victory. Ben Swanson finished with two points in 20 minutes.
Their debut in Lake City wasn't quite as fruitful as they hoped, but the experience at home with their team has been an unforgettable one for Ryan and Ben Swanson.
"It's awesome we get a home stay with (the Lake City players)," Ryan Swanson said. "They get to know us a little bit, and the next day, we step on the court against each other.
"It's interesting to have something like that to look back on. Any time we come back, we can stay with them again. There are great relationships being built."