June 16, 2009
Santa Clara senior center John Bryant, who finished his degree a quarter early after being honored as the 2009 WCC Player of the Year, made it official Sat., June 12 - also his 22nd birthday - by walking across the stage and receiving his Santa Clara diploma from President Engh. Bryant has been in Los Angeles working out the last couple months and below he talks about graduation, Los Angeles and the draft.
SCU: It was your 22nd birthday and you graduated from college on Sat., June 12. Pretty big day for you? How was graduation?
JB: Graduation was great; it was on my birthday so it was a great birthday present to myself - to graduate from a place like Santa Clara. I had all my family there at graduation so it was fun. My immediate family, including my parents and my two brothers and sister, two aunts and my grandmother all were there in the stands. I received my degree in Sociology.
SCU: How did you feel when Father Engh handed you your diploma?
JB: I had a big smile on my face when I got the diploma. I talked to President Engh a couple nights before at our team banquet. We talked about the fact I graduated a quarter early, and he was thankful for me putting a great image on Santa Clara - that Bronco student-athletes work hard, graduate and go on to do good things. We also talked about taking Santa Clara to the next level, and he put a real positive spin on Santa Clara and getting a great education. He wants me to do well and I hope he does really well here.
SCU: You have been training the last couple months in Los Angeles. Can you get us up to speed on what you've been working on?
JB: It is going really good. The main person I am training with is Yi Jianlian from the New Jersey Nets. He is really athletic and quick, so it is a challenge for me to guard him every day. But it is good for me to help me work on my defensive skills. He is in the league so it would be someone I would have to play against if I do make the NBA. He has been in the league for a year now so he knows what is going on and he is a good player. There are a lot of guards where I am training so I get a lot of time on the court as a big man.
SCU: Does Yi give you any tips, or help you with anything?
JB: Not necessarily but I try to model what I do in drills off of what he does. That's how basketball works. You learn from people you train with, play against and try to get better and better. That is how you grow as a player and a person so it definitely helps a lot playing against him.
SCU: Has it been a benefit to go down to LA and train? Were you `homesick'?
JB: It has been a huge benefit to me. Going down to LA and being in an unfamiliar area with people I don't know has been good because I spend most of my day working out in the gym three times a day. It has helped me a lot by clearing away all of the distractions of college life.
SCU: Who have you worked out for?
JB: I went to Sacramento and Houston. The Nets, Raptors and Clippers have all come to workouts that I have had in Las Vegas and LA.
SCU: You graduated a quarter early. Do people talk to you about that or vis versa? How did people react when you told them you graduated early?
JB: The teams are impressed by how much work and time I have put in; and the time I spent on the court and in the weight room, and I was still able to manage to graduate early. It is definitely an accomplishment for myself and my family.
SCU: Draft day is coming around, June 25th, what are your plans?
JB: Basically the same that I have been doing every day. I will be down in LA training - working out during the day. I will watch the draft, but as my agent said we are not going to put all of our hopes into the draft because that is not the last thing that could ever happen. There are more options, overseas and whatever happens, happens.
SCU: It sounds like you won't measure your future career on draft day as a success or a failure?
JB: Definitely. There are many players who did not get drafted who went overseas for a year or two and came back to have successful careers in the NBA. The draft is not the end of the world if I don't get drafted, there are different options and things I can do in the future. I will watch it probably alone in my apartment. I won't be disappointed if I am not because I know it's a long road. I can play in Europe a year or two and come back to the NBA. I just want to play.
SCU: Have you ever been overseas and have you talked to any players who have played overseas?
JB: I have never been outside of the United States. I was close once in Niagara Falls to Canada on a family trip when I was younger, but we didn't cross the border.
But I have talked to Brody and Mitch and Deron Perkins about it. Brody loved playing overseas. When I first started training hard for basketball a couple years ago I didn't want to go overseas. I wanted to stay around here, but now I think that it is definitely an option now and I would be open to it and I would have a great time.
SCU: You played with the some of the returning players this week who are working the basketball camp, how was that?
JB: The guys are looking a lot better with the shooting and the ball handling. Coach Keating was really on them about skill work this spring and getting shots up. It's about repetition and that's what Coach Keating's philosophy is: getting reps in. You can tell he worked them hard in individuals this year from their play this week. Michael Santos looked really good. He was doing some crazy dunks I have never seen him do and his athletic ability is growing. He is looking really good.