USC fresh­man Bryant has a chance to be ‘great player’

The State - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW RAMSPACHER aramspacher@thes­tate.com

Chris Silva spoke in the pre­sea­son about his daily at-the-rim meet­ings with Keyshawn Bryant. “He al­ways tries to pos­ter­ize me for some rea­son,” South Carolina’s most es­tab­lished dunker once said about the next-in-line.

So af­ter Bryant wowed a Colo­nial Life Arena crowd of 10,145 in a Game­cock 65-52 win over USC Up­state, Silva wasn’t com­pletely shocked. All that ath­leti­cism and ag­gres­sive­ness had flashed in prac­tice for weeks. Bryant scored 21 points from two dunks, two layups, four short jumpers and five three throws.

What did sur­prise Silva was Bryant did this in his col­lege de­but.

“A lit­tle bit half and half be­cause he’s a fresh­man and had never played a game in col­lege bas­ket­ball,” Silva said. “To see him feel com­fort­able on the court, half and half, like I said. A lit­tle sur­pris­ing, a lit­tle not.”

For com­par­i­son’s sake, Silva, an All-SEC for­ward and one of 50 play­ers on the Wooden Award watch list, had 12 points and nine boards in his first col­lege game. Sin­dar­ius Thorn­well had 14 and four in his. P.J. Dozier had seven and three as­sists in his.

Bryant’s 21 points were the most by a Carolina rookie in his first game in the sev­enyear Frank Mar­tin era. The pre­vi­ous Game­cock fresh­man to reach 20 points in any game was Rakym Felder on Dec. 27, 2016, against Lan­der.

Not bad for a 6-foot-6 wing who might have been mis­judged as just an ath­lete play­ing bas­ket­ball.

“He’s got a knack to score,” Mar­tin said. “Some guys can jump and dunk, but they’ve got no feel how to score.”

Alex English scored 1,972 times in a Game­cock uni­form. The Nai­smith Hall of Famer was on the SEC Net­work call of Tues­day’s game and raved

‘‘ HE’S GOT A KNACK TO SCORE. SOME GUYS CAN JUMP AND DUNK, BUT THEY’VE GOT NO FEEL HOW TO SCORE. South Carolina coach Frank Mar­tin

about Bryant in a postgame seg­ment.

“I’m ex­cited for this young man,” English said. “He’s very ath­letic, got a lot of skill, knows how to get to the rim and fin­ish. He did a great job of that tonight.”

Among USC’s five-man 2018 re­cruit­ing class, Bryant, a three-star prospect from Win­ter Haven, Florida, was rated fourth by 247Sports. He was the third Game­cock off the bench Tues­day.

“The scout­ing re­port wasn’t the fact that he was go­ing to come in and have 21 points and seven re­bounds,” said Up­state coach Dave Dick­er­son. “But the one thing I like about him is he’s a player — like we say in the coach­ing pro­fes­sion — he knows how his bread is but­tered. And he does that. He’s a left-hand guy and he at­tacks the bas­ket and he doesn’t try to do any­thing else.

“So when you have a guy that young that knows his strengths and weak­nesses, then he has a chance to be a great player.”

Be­yond the flash, Mar­tin ap­pre­ci­ated Bryant’s re­siliency against the Spar­tans. He noted Bryant’s three of­fen­sive re­bounds, his block and his over­all re­sponse to a tough per­sonal sit­u­a­tion.

Bryant lost his great grand­mother less than two weeks ago.

“Like I told him,” Mar­tin said, “’Your growth as a kid, I’m proud of you that you dealt with that loss and yet you came here so fo­cused to prac­tice. But what you have to learn is when you prac­tice and you’re en­gaged the way you were, it usu­ally trans­lates to good things in the game.’

“So I was happy for him.”

South Carolina re­turns to ac­tion Fri­day when it hosts Stony Brook at 7 p.m.

PHO­TOS BY JEFF BLAKE jblake@thes­tate.com

South Carolina Game­cocks for­ward Keyshawn Bryant (24) drives against the USC Up­state Spar­tans in the sec­ond half of their game at Colo­nial Life Arena.

South Carolina's Keyshawn Bryant looks to get around USC Up­state's Ma­lik Moore in the first half of their game.

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