Ryan Brown: The Sharpest Shooter in Lacrosse

By Sarah Griffin

Feb 15, 2023

Ryan Brown has announced his retirement from professional lacrosse.

A 2018 gold medalist with Team USA, three-time All-Star, and most recently a 2022 PLL Champion, Brown leaves the sport better than he found it. 

If you were to ask a coach, fan, or most definitely a goalie who the best shooter in the game is, chances are you’re going to hear the name Ryan Brown quite a bit. 

“His shooting stroke is everything you hear about and more; it’s poetry in motion,” remarked Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan.

After an illustrious career at Johns Hopkins finishing seventh in program history in goals, Brown was drafted to the Charlotte Hounds in the MLL in 2016. He recorded a career-best year in his second season with the Hounds, scoring 34 goals with a 30% shooting percentage to match. 

An integral asset to every team he’s been on, four years after his career-best season in the MLL, the sharp shooter was traded in March 2021 from the Atlas to the Waterdogs ahead of the franchise’s second season. 

Coach Copelan was proactive in the offseason in improving and finding the right guys to fill the missing pieces on his roster after the Waterdogs’ inaugural season. As Kieran McArdle put it, adding Brown was a no-brainer.

“Being a lefty attackman, it’s always great to have a righty shooter. When we traded for him my initial reaction was how great it’s going to be playing with a guy who can shoot the ball like I’ve never seen before again,” remarked McArdle, who played with Brown for a year in 2019 with the Atlas. 

“You get a chance to bring in a guy who doesn’t need the ball in his stick a lot and helps everyone else out on the field. He’s an off-ball guy who keeps defenses occupied and fit in on our attack perfectly. Not only that, he’s a very smart player with a high lacrosse IQ. He was a missing piece that we needed.”

Brown’s impact on the Waterdogs was instantaneous from the second he arrived at training camp. 

“Following Brownie’s career as long as I had, I knew we were getting an exceptional shooter and I felt like he could be a good complimentary piece to what we were trying to build,” said Copelan who then echoed McArdle’s sentiments. “But we got that and so much more out of that trade. He’s arguably the smartest lacrosse player I’ve been around, which is the part of the equation I underestimated a little bit.”

Perhaps the purest shooter to ever play the game, the off-ball righty attackman elevated the game of everyone around him. In his first season as a Waterdog, Brown led the PLL in assisted goals with 21 on 65 shots. A known catch-and-shoot kind of guy, he exceeded the high expectations set for himself, recording his best season shooting wise since 2017 with a 29% shooting percentage. Brown emerged as the obvious team MVP, helping lead the Waterdogs to the #1 seed in 2021.

As both McArdle and Copelan mentioned, while everyone may know Brown for his accuracy and range as a shooter, the greatness of Ryan Brown goes far beyond that. Having played with him for three seasons of his pro career, McArdle knows better than most just how smart of a  lacrosse mind Brown is.

“Everyone knows he’s a great shooter, but he’s very smart in ways to get open so he can get his shot off. He’s really good at moving around the field and finding open spots and putting his defender in a spot where they need to slide off of him so he can get open. His lacrosse IQ is what allows him to be that great shooter.”

One of the veterans on this young team, Brown’s skills and smarts set an example for his Waterdogs teammates not just on the field, but in the locker room as well. 

“You could just throw the locker room over to Brownie or some film sessions and he just has a very articulate way of getting a message across in combination with a really impressive lacrosse mind,” said Copelan. “I felt really comfortable giving him full autonomy in those situations. Sometimes you have to go back and watch the tape and figure out what went right and what went wrong, and Brownie instantaneously can tell you how they’re sliding, how they’re setting picks, all the nuisance stuff. Not only does he understand all that, but he’s able to communicate it with his teammates and that helps us work through our options.” 

“He brought a light presence to our locker room,” reiterated McArdle. “He’s not this ‘rah-rah’ hooting and hollering guy. He’s a calming presence who brought experience and confidence to our locker room. As I continue to develop my own game, he’s someone I take notes from and listen to. I try to utilize aspects of his game into my own.” 

Coaches and players everywhere hold a lot of respect for Ryan Brown the shooter and lacrosse player. But for his Waterdogs teammates and coaches, they look at the high-caliber teammate and person he is.

Brown battled injuries throughout 2022, playing in just seven regular season games and stepping in as a midfielder in the title game after Mikie Schlosser went down in the semifinals. With Ethan Walker stepping up in Brown’s absence, Walker, McArdle, and Michael Sowers formed a lot of chemistry on attack as the season progressed and the Waterdogs playoff run began. 

“Brownie and I had some very honest conversations at that point,” Copelan recalled. “We played without him in the quarterfinals against the Atlas, and then the semis against the Whips, and we had some good chemistry going on on attack. The last thing Brownie wanted to do was be disruptive in any sense. When we lost Schlosser in the semifinal game, we had a spot open in the midfield and we felt comfortable inserting Brownie in. That just tells you everything you need to know about how good of a player he is. He can be injected into various roles and give you everything he’s got regardless of the situation. He’s wired the right way.”

Both Copelan and McArdle discussed the value of Brown in that midfield role for them in the Championship. It was Brown who set the pick on Connor Kelly’s opening goal for the Waterdogs to get them on the board after a slow start falling behind 3-0 to the Chaos early on. While it might not have been his usual role on the field, all that mattered to him was doing whatever was needed of him to get the win. 

“He’s a team guy through and through. He doesn’t have an ego. He left it all at the door and just did what was best for the team,” said McArdle. “He’s a great teammate, great person, and I’m lucky enough to have played with what a lot of people call the best shooter in the game.”

151 goals, one gold medal, one Championship title, and a whole lot of highlight-reel worthy moments later, Ryan Brown leaves his playing career behind with a lot to be proud of. 

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