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Newcomer helped propel Eagles

After a year at Palm Harbor U., Ryan Buchanan led East Lake to the state tournament.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


Ryan Buchanan was new to East Lake this year, but he was not new to the Eagles players.

As a freshman, Buchanan played No. 1 for Palm Harbor University and led it to a state tournament appearance.

But at the end of the school year, Buchanan decided to transfer to East Lake, the school he is zoned to attend. He had attended PHU as part of the school's Baccalaureate program.

Buchanan joined the team he help beat a year earlier, and together, the Eagles had one of their most successful seasons ever.

Buchanan, who played No. 1, 2 and 3 during the regular season, settled into No. 1 by districts and won a team singles state title.

As a team, East Lake finished second in the state behind Naples Barron Collier.

"I didn't expect to get that far," Buchanan said. "I played pretty well. As a team, we had a lot of depth. That's what helped us get as far as we did."

Buchanan's run at an overall singles state title fell short when he ran into Naples Lely's Jesse Witten, who won 6-4, 6-1. Witten was ranked third in the state in 18-and-under and fourth nationally.

But Buchanan is sure to be heard from again. Only a sophomore, he already has the size (6 feet 3, 180 pounds) and talent of older players. He is a regular on the Florida junior circuit and plans a full summer of tournaments.

Buchanan did not lose a match until he met Witten in the overall final. And he teamed with sophomore Adel Naser to reach the team doubles state final before losing to Seth Fogelman and Brett Twente of Barron Collier.

"He's a big kid even though he's only a sophomore," East Lake coach Bill Gunther said. "He can stand on the baseline and just wear kids out. And he's a smart player."

Expect Buchanan and the Eagles to wear teams out next year as well. East Lake's big three of Buchanan, Naser and Dmitry Bubis returns. Freshman Ezra Goldman, who played No. 4, also returns.

East Lake did not lose a dual match this season.

Some of the best competition for East Lake came in practice. That's when players challenged each other for the right to play at No. 1. "The challenges go back and forth," Buchanan said. "Sometimes I win, sometimes Adel wins, sometimes Dmitry wins. We're all really close.

"There's a little bit of a pride thing. I'd prefer to be No. 1."

Buchanan proved he was worthy when he mowed down Fogelman in the team singles final 6-2, 6-2. He said he is looking forward to staying at East Lake for the next two years and becoming the school's first overall state champion since Adrian Pagani.

"It's motivation," Buchanan said. "I'm looking forward to next season."

Introducing: Ryan Buchanan

YEAR/SCHOOL: Sophomore, East Lake.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: No. 1 singles champion in the team division, second overall.

FUTURE GOALS: Play college tennis.

FAVORITE ATHLETE: Patrick Rafter.

FAVORITE SCHOOL SUBJECT: Math.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Braveheart.

FAVORITE MUSIC GROUP: Matchbox Twenty.

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