Elijah Bryant was a freshman sensation last season when he starred for the Elon Phoenix. The 6-foot 4-inch, 225-pound Bryant averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals a game for the Phoenix and was named the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year as well as garnering Third Team All-CAA honors. Bryant made the decision to transfer during the summer and was courted by basketball power programs Miami, Texas A&M, Butler, and Dayton, along with the BYU Cougars.
Many BYU fans may wonder if the Cougars pursued Bryant out of high school and during the year he spent at prep school in New Hampshire. The answer is yes, but there was a reason why he didn’t garner the offers from BYU each time.
“I visited BYU during my junior year (of high school) and talked with Coach Pope,” Bryant explained. “I matured late. I was 5-foot 7 as a freshman so my whole game wasn’t mature, so I respect the reasons why I didn’t get an offer because I understand it takes a lot for a program to offer a scholarship. I chose to go to prep school and heard from BYU a little bit then but felt comfortable with Elon. I decided to transfer and then I heard from them again.”
Bryant was courted by BYU out of prep school during the time Matt Carlino decided to transfer from BYU, but he signed with Elon before the scholarship held by Carlino came available.
Bryant will get his only shot to show BYU fans what he can do in game action tonight when BYU holds its annual Tip-Off event to give fans a glimpse of the team. Bryant feels his game complements BYU’s run-and-gun system.
“I like to get my teammates involved in the game,” Bryant said. “I know I scored a lot last year but one of the cool things about BYU is that they always make the next pass. If you make the next pass, the next guy is open and that may be you the next time.”
Bryant continued “I am a guy who likes to play in transition as a bigger guard and being able to finish at the rim.”
Bryant took a circuitous route in arriving at BYU, but he feels grateful to be a Cougar finally, even though he has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity I have been given,” Bryant stated. “Elon really set me up for this. Sitting out this year will really prepare me to go against this level of guys each and every day. I am excited to see what this team can do this year because we have a lot of talent.”
Bryant calls BYU a “dream school.” Being offered by BYU was an honor for Bryant and he loves the atmosphere around the school and team.
“I remember coming out here my junior year (of high school) and it was definitely a dream school of mine,” Bryant explained. “You see the mountains and everything here. When they called me I got butterflies thinking ‘BYU wants me to go to their school?’
“The environment here is great. Everyone here is positive. At a lot of other schools, not Elon in particular, but, in general, you’re dealing with a lot of knuckleheads. At BYU everyone has the same mentality, trying to get better, and grow in every aspect of life.”
Seeing as Bryant is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, his reasons for settling on transferring to BYU may seem simple, but Bryant explained he kept the LDS element of his decision process over the summer.
“I didn’t let [the LDS connection] be the reason for choosing BYU because I wanted to see every school without that aspect,’ Bryant said. “When I got to BYU, I was grateful for it. Everyone goes out on Saturday here but they get up and go to church the next day. Other places it isn’t like that.”
Bryant has settled into life as a student-athlete at BYU and says he enjoys the relationships he’s established and maintains with the BYU basketball coaching staff.
“I love the coaches, to be honest,” Bryant stated. “I love being able to go in and watch film with Coach (Terry) Nashif anytime I want to. I think that develops a personal relationship beyond just basketball, even though you’re watching film and getting better too.”
From the sound of it, Elijah Bryant’s arrival at BYU could also provide a boon to BYU’s football program. Bryant’s brother, Choe Bryant, is a 6-foot, 200-pound eighth grade football star in the Atlanta area who has dreams of attending BYU like his older brother.
Elijah Bryant will spend this season running the scout team at BYU, but he feels the university is the perfect place for him to maintain and improve in all aspects of life.
“There’s 3 aspects of life; physical, mental, and spiritual,” Bryant explained. “To keep all of those up, [BYU] is a great place for that. I look forward to helping the team this year by running the opposing team’s plays in practice & [getting the guys prepared to play].”