DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko: The Fusion Method

CHICAGO - As a sociology major, Brittany Hrynko knows about the division of labor. But it has been the addition of labor that has transformed her from a talented, but rough and ragged freshman to being selected to the Wade Watch list, the Wooden Award list, and the Naismith Trophy Watch list her senior year.

Landmarks

But before DePaul, there was Carver Engineering & Science High School. And before Carver, there was Lawncrest Recreational Center at 6000 Rising Sun Avenue in Philadelphia.

“The Lawncrest league was an age 7-10 league,” said Hrynko. “I told my mom I wanted to play so she signed me up. And I played there until age 12 or 13 when I started playing AAU ball.”

The Lawncrest league was co-ed, but Hrynko was the only female to show up.

“Brittany’s talent and potential was very clear from the beginning,” said her AAU coach, Eric Worley. “She was competing with boys her age and older at Lawncrest. When she added a jump shot to her ball handling and quickness, I knew she would be able to compete at the highest level.”

Hrynko gives Worley, who is her uncle, credit for helping keep her in the right direction during her formative years.

“When I first started playing AAU ball, Worley stayed on me and made sure I stayed out of trouble. He made sure my grades were okay and that I personally was okay.”

At Carver, Hrynko was named co-MVP along with former DePaul star Keisha Hampton as she helped lead the Engineers to the Philadelphia Public Championship her freshman year. She averaged 21.7 ppg and 3.1 apg her junior year and 19.1 ppg her senior year. She holds the Carver record for most points scored with 1,539.

And then came change, both geographically and personally.

Brotherly Love to Tough Love

“We tell recruits right in front of their parents that we are going to administer tough love, which means saying ‘no,’ not letting a player have everything they want, and getting them to do things that you want them to do for the betterment of the team,” said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. “One of our keys to recruiting, maybe good or bad, is that they know what they are getting before they get here.”

And then came the freshman year, one filled with passes that did not go where they should have gone and others that should never have been thrown in the first place.

Yes, there was the 25 points versus Arizona State in her twelfth game at DePaul and the 18 points versus No. 3 UConn, but there was also an assist/turnover ratio of .82, a ratio no coach wants to see from his point guard.

But effort and drive was not lacking from Hrynko. With starting point guard Chanise Jenkins out for the season with a foot injury, Hrynko shifted over from shooting guard to the point.

“The adjustment was not hard because I had always played both positions when I was younger. I just had to see what Coach Bruno wanted me to do and then do it.”

Her sophomore year showed more of that same talent, but now amplified. There was the full court drive and layup in the final seconds to beat Pittsburgh 57-55, and roughly two weeks later, a three-pointer from the top of the key with 10 seconds left to beat Rutgers 60-57. She scored a then-career-high 35 points later that year in a loss to Marquette.

Her game was growing, and so was her player/coach relationship with Bruno.

“My job is to have players walk out of DePaul knowing that I have done the best job to help them be the best they can be as students, as people, and as basketball players,” said Bruno. “That means that the tough love has to sometimes be harsh. That is what has forged our relationship. I think Brittany has been responding. She has been magnificent to coach and she has been growing in her leadership role.”

And then came Hrynko’s junior year, where all the mistakes and all the loud instruction from Bruno over the past two years added something more to her game than just scoring: passing.

“What is so beautiful about our game is that it is a game of sharing,” said Bruno. “The turnaround in Brittany’s game is when she really started to value facilitating and sharing as an equal to scoring. The more you share with your teammates, the more you get yourself open. That is where her game has grown at DePaul in the last year and a half as she has become a scorer/facilitator simultaneously and that is what great guards are able to do.”

Hrynko’s perspective on what initiated the change?

“Coach Bruno staying on me and always telling me that if I am open don’t throw up a shot I can’t make and if I am not open, pass the ball. There were times in my freshman and sophomore years that I thought I was open but I wasn’t open.”

Hrynko’s box score for her junior year in 2013 included 12 assists in a win versus Washington- her first double digit assist game at DePaul- and 14 points and six assists in DePaul’s upset of Duke and a Sweet 16 berth. Her assist/turnover ratio was 1.55. She recorded 10 or more assists in four games and finished the year No. 3 all-time for single season assists at DePaul with 202, the most assists at DePaul in 24 years.

“Since the Kentucky game [in 2013] and then again since the Seton Hall game [last year] Brittany is starting to understand the intermingling or integration of facilitating and scoring,” said Bruno. [She is] learning to pick her spots when the right decision means serving your teammates and helping them get open and picking her spots when she has to be aggressive and score.”

X and Y Axis

Hrynko was invited in May, 2013, to the USA World University Games Team Trials. She did not come away being selected for the team, but what she did come away with was more important in the long-term.

”I learned that it is not all about scoring. There were a lot of great players that could score the ball, so it was doing the other things like passing the ball. I learned you have to get your teammates involved and you have to know when to make the right pass. It taught me how to become a better leader at DePaul.”

Hrynko turned what she learned at the Trials into what has been a phenomenal senior year. She is averaging 20.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 2.9 spg. Her play in a win earlier this year versus Georgetown included 38 points, nine assists, four steals, and one turnover. She also recorded what must be a DePaul record when she scored 18 straight points in the first half.

The big picture is stark: she is No. 8 all-time at DePaul in scoring with 1,720 points; No. 2 all-time in assists with 607; and No. 4 all-time in steals with 267 at this time. She needs 75 more points to become the only player in DePaul women’s basketball history to be in the top five in those three categories, and she is on course to be the only DePaul player to lead the team in assists and steals four straight years. And NCAA Division I statistics have Hrynko currently as one of only two players this year to rank in the Top 40 in scoring, assists, and steals.

Final Timeout

When Hrynko was age 12 or 13 she told herself she wanted to be in the WNBA. She laughs when acknowledging that the dreams of youth often change rapidly, but she stuck with her goal. And she has stuck by her coach.

“Coach Bruno pushes me and tells me what I need to do to get there. Me listening to him and wanting to listen to him is huge.”

Bruno was an assistant coach on the USA women’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The Wall of Fame at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena has descriptive plaques of the 12 players he has helped place in the WNBA, including this past year’s Sixth Woman of the Year, Allie Quigley.

“The year [Brittany] is having is demonstrating that she is definitely going to get drafted and have a chance to make the league. And now that she is facilitating, scoring, and starting to understand the three-point game, the intermediate game, and when to go to the basket, I think she definitely has a future in the WNBA.”

Facilitating, scoring, and understanding the nuances of the game. Fusion at its finest.


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