If you find yourself in the category of wishing that coaches, scouts and general managers would prioritize the here and now over the murky beyond, Thomas Bryant is your guy.
He's really your guy.
Bryant never gets outworked, or outfought, or out-competed. He's the equivalent of a soccer midfielder who seems to run a marathon and get involved in every possession, or a boxer who averages 100 punches per round.
His identity became clear immediately upon his entrance onto the national scene. And that, despite the fact that as a freshman he was a 6-6 combo forward. He sprouted to 6-9 as a sophomore and now stands 6-10.
During that process he evolved into a center, a significant alteration to the mechanics of his game and his future, yet his style has remained a constant.
As a rising junior he competed at the LeBron James Skills Academy, among other venues, battling older competitors at the nation's most prestigious events.
He accumulated a wide collection of scholarship offers and, following a solid 2013-14 season, embarked on the travel circuit once again this past spring and summer. Bryant toured the EYBL circuit with Team Scan and succeeded individually and collectively alongside other blue-chip teammates.
Bryant enters his senior year as a top 30 overall prospect and major target of high-major programs.
Style stands out more than anything tangible. Bryant obviously has great size and lean strength (235 pounds) in his favor, but most often he draws praise for his tenacious competitive spirit. He isn't one of these guys who has to work himself into a lather to play hard; it's his default mode.
Bryant loves to initiate scrums. He scraps for rebounds, offensive post position, defensive post position, loose balls and everything else. Even the picks he sets are full-on collisions, and over the course of a game he tends to beat up opponents who simply don't like getting hit so much.
|Bryant heartily accepts all challenges|
His efforts don't fall by the statistical wayside, however, because he's productive on the stat sheet. Bryant averaged 11 points and seven rebounds for Team Scan, hardly mind-blowing numbers but very solid for a balanced team. He mostly sticks to what he does best, enabling him to shoot 59 percent from the field. Additionally, he hit 75 percent of his free throws and contributed 1.5 blocks per game.
Bryant runs the floor very hard and as such is an effective transition scorer. He also gets baskets on put-backs and, as the aggressor, gets favorable treatment from officials.
In college, his contributions will extend off the court as well. Having such a ferocious teammate in practice should elevate the entire team's toughness.
Style stands out more than anything tangible. That's the first line in the Assets section, but it also underscores his areas to improve. Bryant doesn't possess great athleticism — he's slightly slow off the floor, relative to his elite peers — and he moves somewhat mechanically. His post moves thus require a lot of work, as he's far less effective away from the rim.
He also will need to improve his passing and face-up shooting. He shot 3-14 on threes during 17 games with Team Scan, so he's trying, but he obviously must raise his efficiency. And for being as big and physical as he is, Bryant attempted only 48 free throws in those 17 games.
Bryant projects as the kind of player college coaches love to suit up, and provided he's able to play his ideal role, he should flourish.
Fans expecting him to bring a scoring wallop and explosive, agile athleticism likely would be disappointed, but appreciate him as a competitor and winner and enjoying watching him tear into the opposition, game after game. Alongside a more polished big man, he should thrive.
There's also nothing preventing him from becoming a more potent scorer himself, given that he has time on his side. Frankly, if he ends up staying three or four years in college, that's a great deal for whichever school signs him. Rarely now do we project a top 30 prospect to play all four years, and thus Bryant is a throwback based not only on style but also due to the expected duration of his college career.
Thinking long-term, he'll clearly have to address his offensive game positively as well as convince NBA scouts that he possesses the burst and fluidity to succeed at that level. Regardless, however, at his size and with his dedication, Bryant projects to become a nearly sure-fire pro somewhere.