The suggestions from well-meaning buddies ranged from subtle to blunt.

Dude, you already have a D-I football scholarship. Work on your skills some more. Get ready for next year. Kick hoops to the curb.

Ryan Nassib listened with his ears, but the words also traveled to his heart and belly, that place where inner fires rage. Once that happened, there was no chance Malvern Prep would have to miss his basketball services this season.

Anyway, the college that has nabbed Nassib to play quarterback, Syracuse, was roundly in favor of continued multisports-tasking.

"They want me to play basketball. They're being really cool about it," Nassib said. "They want me to have a regular senior-year-of-high-school experience.

"Basketball's not my No. 1 sport, but I do love playing it and I thought I owed loyalty to my teammates. Mostly, I wanted to be here to help them out."

Those last three words are putting it mildly. The 6-2, 210-pound senior forward, one of the Daily News' four football Players of the Year, is becoming quite the hoops headliner and yesterday he was at it again as Malvern concluded its participation in the 4th annual Augustinian Shoot-out.

The 4-day showcase event, bringing together nine schools from around the United States (eight) and Canada (one), was played this year at St. Augustine Prep, in Richland, N.J. (not far from Vineland). The Friars, in two-apiece fashion, stayed with host families, but spent most of their time in the school's old and brand-new gym, either playing or watching.

Though Malvern ultimately fell to Cascia Hall, of Tulsa, Okla., 52-50, and Nassib had the misfortune of air-balling an 18-foot jumper that could have forced overtime, he was quite the double-double force. He shot 10-for-20 en route to 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Malvern's game was played in the new gym. In the old one, the other local Friars, Monsignor Bonner, were besting Providence Catholic, of New Lenox, Ill., 54-43, on the strength of a 23-point, 15-rebound, five-block showing by junior Lijah Thompson.

No loss is good, but Malvern impressed by roaring back from a 14-point deficit in the final 5 minutes and no doubt left with good feelings.

Nassib (six) and guards Matt McManus (seven) and Brendan McNulty (six) combined for all 19 of Malvern's fourth-quarter points. McNulty added three apiece of rebounds, assists and steals in the stanza while Nassib and Kevin Corbett halved six boards.

Cascia Hall helped by drawing a technical foul with 54.1 seconds remaining. McNulty hit both really-free throws to draw the Friars within 52-50. They managed to maintain possession down the stretch, but missed six shots.

The final sequence began at 6.3 as McManus inbounded at halfcourt across from the benches. He passed to Nassib, who freed himself and launched from slightly inside the arc. Running in from the right corner, McNulty gathered in the rebound while sailing beneath the basket. He tried a twisting flip from the left side. It barely missed.

Said Nassib of the sequence, "I had a big guy on me, so I thought maybe I could spin off and create some space. I did, but then shanked the shot. I was kind of fading back. It wasn't a good shot."

It was the first time for that. All game, Nassib showed good lift and form on his jumpers and, even better, sensible selection.

"I don't have that many skills, but I can shoot a little, thanks to my dad," he said, smiling. "I don't work on my game as much as a lot of kids do, but I do play hard. I have that football mentality. No backing down."

Malvern went 1-2 in the event. Bonner countered with a 3-0 mark. The teams had met in their season opener with Bonner prevailing in overtime, 55-45.

"This tournament is a good idea," Nassib said. "You get to meet people from other places and see different styles of basketball. Not every team plays the game the way Philly teams do."

Though Nassib committed to Syracuse last spring, other schools continue to peck away. Most have been turned away by Kevin Whitney, a Malvern assistant who oversees recruiting issues. But some have gotten as far as Nassib.

"Mostly I humor them - for lack of a better word," he said. "I'm still solid with Syracuse. The most serious [of those still in pursuit] is UConn. I guess I listen only in case something 'happens' with Syracuse. You don't want be to be [out of luck]." *