It’s early in the boys basketball season. But Riverdale Ridge’s team may have hit a turning point on two fronts. 

One was an overtime win against Prairie View earlier this month. One reason for the overtime win may rest with a couple of veteran players, RJ Holliday and Ryan Leopold.

Leopold is in his third year on the varsity team. He’s averaging 16 points a game through the first five contests. RRHS won three of its first five games. 

“We wanted to take some responsibility,” Leopold said. “We want to help accomplish what we can accomplish.” 

Aside from Holliday, there are just two other seniors – Lane Hawkins and Anthony Chavez – on the squad this year. 

“The seniors can help everyone be prepared,” said Holliday, who’s averaging three points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal per game through the first five outings. “It’s what we have to do. It’s a given. It’s automatic that you have that trait in you.” 

Coach Byron Gray said he’s looked at the way some college teams – he cited Duke and the University of Colorado – grow internally. 

“They are good teams, and they have players who look at themselves as leaders,” Gray said. “They take it up amongst themselves. If they can’t work it out, then I get involved.” 

To Leopold, being a leader “comes easy.” 

“I want everyone to look at me as a leader,” Leopold said. “I want to lead by example. I’m a player who leads by example.” 

Holliday doesn’t mind that spot either. 

“I love it,” he said. “It’s the heart of the team, and I want to help everybody. It’s a brotherhood. We talk through everything. It’s more of a family.”           

“Everyone understands that we’re trying to make this better. We’re not doing it to be mean,” Leopold said. “Everyone wants to be the best we can.” 

Both Leopold and Holliday agreed it was helpful for teammates to hear suggestions from different sources. 

“People respond better when they hear a different voice,” Holliday said.  

“It’s not the same person telling you the same thing,” Leopold said. “It helps.” 

Gray expected his team to be playing better earlier in the season. But he also knew COVID and other related issues would get in the way. 

“A lot of these guys have never seen big crowds. The game against Skyview (a 56-51 win) and the one against Prairie View (a 64-59 overtime win)? Those crowds were massive,” Gray said. “I’m pleased where we are. We had kind of an easy summer, and we came into this year expecting things to be easier. That’s not realistic. They realize this is going to push us to where we need to be.” 

The Ravens return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, at Platte Valley. 

“We were shaky,” Leopold said. “We fixed things, and we feel better. After that overtime win, we made good strides. We were fed up playing close games against bad teams. We needed to make a change.” 

“We want to be dominant,” said Holliday, who transferred to RRHS from Bishop Machebeuf. “We hear it every day, people telling us to be better players. We finally started to believe in each other.”