October 24, 2005

Big Hopes For Big Man In The Middle

Oct. 24, 2005

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    There are whispers that he could be the best big man Dick Davey has come across at SCU. Perhaps even the biggest steal since discovering a future NBA most valuable player in Canada. Those hopeful forecasts aren't from longtime fans wishing for a big-time presence in the paint. Those are the thoughts of the Broncos' coaches about freshman John Bryant who WILL be a force in the West Coast Conference. The question is whether that will be this season.

    "He has a nice feel for the game with good hands and we really like his work ethic," says Davey. "We think he has a chance to be the biggest steal since Steve Nash."

    Listed at 6'-11", 329-pounds, Bryant made the transformation from project to prospect after his junior year at Pinole Valley High School. Various scouting services started mentioning him as a guy who could possibly go to a Pac-10 school, redshirt then make a push to start by his sophomore year.

    Based on the initial workouts, Santa Clara plans to accelerate that process with a legitimate chance at starting this year. I heard those redshirt whispers by some of those "experts" at the WCC level but that is now out the window. There's an intriguing possibility of the Broncos going big, as in jumbo with Bryant, Sean Denison and Travis Niesen along the front line. Included in that front line rotation will be senior Tristan Parham, who played great in the San Francisco pro-am and sophomore Mitch Henke, who has been one of the top two or three players early in practice.

    "I think I can come in and contribute right away," says Big John. "Conditioning is a big key and I'll just keep working at getting better. But we have all the pieces here already. It will just take a little time."

    Screen setting is a given. It's a three-second violation to get around Bryant and there is absolutely no moving him off the block. Stubborn senior Niesen has tried to no avail but that won't stop him from trying to chop down the oak. Travis, you're going to need a bigger ax.

    However, don't confuse Bryant with other big guys who are there simply to clog the lane. That he can do but he has a soft jump hook and will dunk through anyone with the moxie to get in his way. As a low post threat, he has the look of a guy who will be a terrific passer out of the double team and I believe a guy that the offense can run through eventually

    During the summer, I tried to reach Bryant at his home in San Pablo but he was with his personal trainer, getting ready for the rigors of college ball. Coach Seandel seemed very pleased at the reason I was unable to put together the column over the summer months since it meant Bryant was serious about what lies ahead. Bryant has worked hard to get where he is and knows there's more work to come.

    "The best player I played against in high school was Dior Lowhorn (Berkeley High now at Texas Tech). As a junior I couldn't compete but by the time I was a senior I think I more than held my own against him. I started to think during last season that I had a chance to really do something in this game."

    Bryant feels the time management needed to be successful student-athlete is at least as much a challenge as getting down to 315 pounds for his freshman season. He's learned how to eat better with the hope of devouring rival centers in the WCC. There's hope he can be the best big man in the Davey era, which would mean being better than Brendan Graves during the Nash years or Alex Lopez as a senior. Remember the impact another 300-pounder (plus about 50 lbs), Brad Millard made at Saint Mary's during an NCAA tournament run?

    That run was during Millard's sophomore year, before injuries derailed his career. The Santa Clara coaches believe Bryant can eventually be a game-altering presence in the paint. But will "eventually" be in 2005-2006?

    Stay tuned.