His basketball coach says Ryan Lee is a "man of few words."
His volleyball coach says Lee is "a quiet leader."
But the strong, silent approach doesn't always work for Lee when it comes to his dealings with the director of Cherry Hill West High School's award-winning a cappella group, Men of Note.
"Ryan can give us that extra-low note," said Jonathan Flowers, a music teacher at Cherry Hill West. "He has such a deep voice."
Flowers calls Lee "a gentle giant," noting that the 6-foot-4 senior who specializes in gritty defensive play on the basketball court and thunderous spikes in volleyball has a personality that belies his muscular singing voice.
That apparent contradiction sums up Lee, who is an athlete and a performing artist. He's a versatile, valuable member of the basketball and volleyball teams as well as the deep-voiced supplier of the bass line for the school's highly competitive singing squad.
At a time when more and more high school athletes tend to specialize in one sport - filling their "off-seasons" with private workouts, training sessions, and participation in high-level, independent travel teams - Lee can be viewed as Cherry Hill West's resident Renaissance Man.
But the twist to his tale is that Lee is not an old-fashioned, three-sport lettermen but a guy who has found a way to flourish in both sports and singing - and in his schoolwork, as well.
"He's the textbook kid," Cherry Hill West basketball coach Hamasi Tarrant said. "He's so quiet, but he commands respect because he's involved in so many positive activities."
Lee was a three-year starter and two-year captain for the basketball team. He was the defensive Most Outstanding Player for a team that went 13-11 this past season and scored an emotional victory over crosstown rival Cherry Hill East.
Lee is a three-year starter for the volleyball team, which is 16-5 and is projected as the No. 5 seed in the coming South Jersey sectional tournament.
Lee also is a member of the National Honor Society who ranks 37th in a class of more than 400. He scored 1,870 on his SAT, and plans to attend Rowan University and enroll in the School of Engineering.
Plus, he sings in the shower.
"Always," Lee said.
He sings outside the shower, too, as a veteran member of the school's a cappella group, which recently finished first in its category at an April 26-29 competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"I joined the chorus in eighth grade. I liked it. I like to sing all the time. A couple of my sisters sang in high school," said Lee, the youngest of five children, with four sisters.
"I thought it would be fun, something different than sports."
Volleyball coach Brian Nop said Lee's teammates encourage him to sing in the locker room or on the court. They know he has the pipes.
But he won't do it.
"We're going to try to get him to sing the national anthem at Senior Day," Nop said. "He said it's too high for him. But if we tell him there's a grade involved, he might do it."
Tarrant said the basketball team took the same approach, "joking" with him all the time about singing the national anthem.
"It's a little high for me," the deep-voiced Lee said. "I'm more of a bass."
Lee sees similarities between his singing group and his sports teams.
"There's a lot of leadership involved in both groups," Lee said. "Somebody has to step up and take on that responsibility."
His coaches say Lee's leadership involves actions more than words.
"He's the most laid-back person you ever want to meet," Tarrant said. "He could be there the whole time and never say a word."
But as a three-year starter and two-year captain, Lee was a key player for the Lions on the basketball court. He averaged around five points, six rebounds and a team-high three blocks last season, according to Tarrant.
"He's just a solid kid," Tarrant said. "He did a little bit of everything for us."
In volleyball, Lee is an outside hitter who averages seven kills and two service aces, according to Nop.
"He can do everything," Nop said. "He can play every position, help us in a lot of different ways. He was a scrawny little freshman, and he's turned into a man-child."
Flowers has seen Lee make the same sort of progress as a performance artist. Lee is one of just two seniors who have been three-year members of the group, which features 11 singers chosen from a pool of around 70 or 80 candidates.
Flowers also has seen Lee display the same quiet approach that his basketball and volleyball coach know so well. Lee has even done it in the midst of a rehearsal when all members of Men of Note are belting out their best tunes.
"One time we were practicing and another one of the singers said, 'Ryan Lee has said three words today,' " Flowers said. "Ryan just looked at him and said, 'Four.' "