Some players have a hard time traveling away from home and adjusting to college basketball.
Elon’s Elijah Bryant, a CAA Rookie of the Year candidate, is not one of those players. For the Georgia native, home never really went away. Bryant’s mother Israel, father Tyree, stepfather Reginold Strother, as well as his grandma and uncle, come to all of his home games and most road games.
“I obviously feel more comfortable,” says Bryant. “You’re out there and your mom has been watching you play your whole life, so she understands it’s just another game. It helps you calm down, and it’s a confidence builder.”
Confidence is definitely not lacking in the guard. In 22 games, Bryant leads Elon (11-11, 3-6) in scoring at 13.9 ppg on 37-percent shooting. The rookie had one of his best performances in Elon’s season opener against Drexel with 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
His performance off the court has also been impressive. A biology and chemistry major, Bryant visits a tutor two to three times a week, often after his practices.
In addition to his family’s presence, Bryant and Elon head coach Matt Matheny, credited his decision to go to prep school for his great start.
“My ability to focus on basketball and not have that period of home sickness, since I played at prep school, I’ve already dealt with that,” says Bryant.
Bryant averaged 13 points, four rebounds and four assists at New Hampshire’s New Hampton School. The season was enough to get offers from Vermont, Gardner-Webb, Loyola, New Hampshire and Elon. When it came time to make a decision, Bryant was certain on going back down south.
Not just because his family would be there but Elon’s system also seemed perfect for the point guard.
“They had four 1,000-point scorers leaving,” says Bryant. “Some scoring had to be taken care of, so it’s a nice opportunity to step on the floor and be a threat.”
Of course, prep school wouldn’t have even been an option if not for the effort of Bryant’s family. Tyree sparked the passion by making sure Bryant always had a ball in his hands. As a young boy, Bryant played in recreational leagues in Athens but his mother realized he needed to be in a more competitive league.
“My mom knew I was a big fish in a little pond so she had to take me out of Athens and then took me to Atlanta,” says Bryant.
Israel made the two-hour commute to and from all of Bryant’s practices and games with the AAU’s Atlanta Celtics.
Now in college, it seems Bryant is carrying on the family tradition of hard work.
“His work ethic is something for a first-year player that’s a joy to be around, a joy to coach and he listens too,” Matheny said. “He’s very coachable.”
After all the sacrifice they made, Bryant it just trying to make his family’s time worthwhile.
“I don’t want to say ‘oh, I could have went harder there,’” Bryant said. “That’s my worst fear. I want to leave it all out there on the floor.”