Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Thomas Bryant Focusing on Four Schools, But Kansas Trying to Get Involved (UPDATED)
BY CHIP MILLER
PADUCAH, Ky. — Thomas Bryant says he loves playing in Kentucky.
“I just love the basketball atmosphere,” the five-star forward from Huntington Prep (W.V.) said Saturday at the McCracken County Mustang Madness. “Everyone loves the game of basketball here in Kentucky. With the Kentucky Wildcats, they come out to support them and when they hear good high school players are coming, they come out to see them and show their support.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne on Saturday watched Bryant go for 33 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks and one steal in a 72-66 loss to Callaway (MS), which got 35 points from Malik Newman. The Wildcats jumped into Bryant’s recruiting late, offering late in the 2014 year, joining Syracuse, Indiana and Missouri as Bryant’s final four.
But Bill Self and Kansas are also trying to get in the mix, two sources confirmed to SNYtv.
On Friday, Bryant had 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots as Huntington Prep fell, 67-66, on a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by Quality Education Academy’s (NC) Andrien White.
Despite that, Bryant likes how his game is improving, especially his ability to run the floor.
“I feel like I’m running way better,” Bryant said. “I saw videos of me at my old school until now and I feel like I’ve gotten much more stronger, more lateral and quicker on my feet. Doing those hip stretches at the USA camp. That’s helping me out.
“I put my whole heart into it,” Bryant added. “Ever since I was little, I just try to make a difference out there, whether it is scoring, playing defense or being an active person out there. That’s one thing I don’t take for granted and I thank God for it everyday.”
Those recruiting Bryant have taken notice. Asked what those coaches love about his game.
“They just love the intensity and the hard work I put into my game.,” Bryant said.
Former Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford is the lead recruiter for Missouri and Bryant said that relationship will factor into his ultimate decision.
“It factors, because me and Rob had a great relationship when he was here last year at Huntington Prep,” Bryant stated. “Me and him always got along and we just hit it off good.”
As far as Kentucky, Bryant is impressed with what Calipari has been able to accomplish with his players.
“It’s how they have everybody there that is a first round draft pick,” Bryant stated. “Everybody there is a McDonald’s All-American. He brings the best out of everybody there that’s playing for him and will play for him.”
As far as the other two schools, Linda Bryant, Thomas’ mother, recently told Syracuse.com that Syracuse and Indiana were the leaders.
“Really it’s down to two,” Linda Bryant said. “Syracuse and Indiana. And it might be down to one soon. Thomas has always told me that Syracuse was the leader.”
“Me and my mom have edge, but we always talk about it,” Bryant said. “We always keep that between us. The decision is [ultimately] mine.”
On Indiana, Bryant loves the frontcourt players that Tom Crean has been able to develop.
“I just love the guys they have, how they had Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller that were very good draft picks and also doing well in the NBA right now,” Bryant stated.
Syracuse is the home state school and Bryant has deep ties in New York.
“That’s the home state school,” Bryant said. “I always loved seeing them. One of my teammates Chinonso Obokoh plays for them and a lot of guys that I played against and with go to that school.”
As far as his recruitment, Bryant doesn’t appear to be in a real hurry.
“Yes, [I’m going to] basically wait until after the season or wait until after this month goes by because this is the hardest month for us,” Bryant said. “We’re playing a lot of great teams that will give us their best. Just being focused on the here and right now with my teammates is what I am really focused on right now.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.