Sorry, Dad, no baseball for this Radke

Ryan Radke, son of former major-leaguer Brad Radke, prefers the basketball courts at Jesuit.
Former MLB player Brad Radke, right, and his son,  Jesuit High guard Ryan Radke. (ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times)
Former MLB player Brad Radke, right, and his son, Jesuit High guard Ryan Radke. (ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times)
Published Jan. 17, 2018|Updated Jan. 17, 2018

TAMPA — From the very beginning, Ryan Radke was surrounded by baseball.

The son of former major-league right-hander Brad Radke, Ryan grew up in stadiums, playing with toys at ballparks all over the country while his father made a living during a 12-year career with the Minnesota Twins. Soon a player in his own right, Ryan joined a team in Clearwater Little League at the age of 7, eventually taking to the mound like his dad and older brother before him.

Despite his background, the youngest Radke's interest in the sport waned after just a handful of seasons. At 11 years old, Ryan woke up and decided he just didn't feel like going to baseball practice that day.

He knew exactly who was to blame.

"I watched the Harlem Globetrotters, and I was like, 'I'm done. I want to play basketball' " Ryan recalled. "I didn't know what to tell my dad. Basically I was like, '(Baseball) is kind of boring.' "

Seven years later and a starter on Jesuit's varsity boys basketball team, Ryan is carrying out a different family tradition.

Before Brad Radke was throwing strikes on big league mounds, he, too, was a student at Jesuit High School, playing for Tigers basketball coach Neal Goldman when he wasn't putting in work on the diamond. In those days, Goldman was relatively new to coaching, and he was just learning how to incorporate the 3-pointer into his team's strategy, which was introduced to high school basketball in the late 1980s.

Brad, Goldman remembers, was his go-to 3-point shooter. Nearly 30 years later, that role has been taken over by his son.

At 5-foot-8, Ryan isn't the biggest kid on the court, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for with his shot. The senior is second on the team with 27 3-pointers made, and he's shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line.

"His shooting and composure (are the best)," senior point guard Thierry Moliere said. "He's definitely composed under pressure, and I've always known I can count on him to hit his shot. So if he's open, I'm going to feed him."

It's a talent, though, Ryan has worked hard to possess.

Once he stopped playing baseball — a sport in which brother Kasey, a senior pitcher for the University of Tampa, also excelled — Ryan devoted his time and energy into getting better at the sport he chose. When he'd host sleepovers, Ryan and his friends would spend hours in the driveway, his dad recalls, practicing trick shots with the help of a trampoline. As he got older, Ryan implemented his own training program, often forcing himself to make 1,000 shots before he'd come inside for dinner.

It's a kind of dedication Goldman says he sees every day when Ryan steps onto the Jesuit court.

"Ryan is one of the few kids that's become a really good player just by working in his driveway. Hours and hours and hours," said Goldman, who was 20 years old when he began coaching at Jesuit. "Everyone thinks you have to be on a travel team, have a trainer, and he's proven you can be a good player just by the old fashioned working really hard."

In Goldman's 31 years with the program, he's coached three father-son duos. Every now and then, Brad will still pick up a basketball, playing alongside Kasey in a Jesuit alumni league. When it comes to basketball, Ryan said, his dad's still got it.

And even though Ryan is pursuing a different athletic path than the men in his family, he doesn't miss an opportunity to glean important lessons from his father's career.

"He definitely taught me how to work hard, but he let me do it on my own," Ryan said. "We have a room where he has his (awards), and it just motivates me."

Soon, Ryan could have the chance to go after his own.

The Tigers (13-4, 6-0) seem positioned for a playoff run — and one like in 2016, when Jesuit lost in the Class 5A state semifinals, isn't out of the question. To get there, Ryan knows his long-range shooting will have to be on point. So just like he did during those long nights in the driveway, Ryan continues to put in the work.

One of Brad's favorite things, he said, is watching his son reap the benefits on game night.

"I never would have thought in a million years, 'I'm going to have a son that plays basketball at Jesuit, and Goldman will still be the coach,' " Brad said. "As a dad, watching Ryan do his thing is priceless. It's almost like I'm dreaming."