Men’s Hoops: Bryant leaves Utah with two degrees

By Chris Kamrani

As Senior Night commenced at the Huntsman Center, the last of three seniors to be recognized was the most ubiquitous.

Clapping his hands and keeping his head toward to floor to avoid the powerful emotion, senior captain Johnnie Bryant took those inevitable, sauntered steps to mid-court. With his family by his side and a mentor waiting to embrace, Bryant knew that his time had finally come.

The sharpshooter from Oakland, Calif., has seen his athletic and academic careers experience a whirlwind effect. Bryant went from not being able to play basketball at a university out of high school to walking away from the U with two degrees — one in human development and family studies and the second in sports management.

“I never envisioned myself having two degrees from a university,” Bryant said. “My mentor told me in high school, ‘You’re going to graduate from high school, you’re going to graduate from college.’ He gave me that hope, and you know, I ran with it.”

To say that Bryant is a leader and an example to others would be selling him a bit short. J.B. is all those things and more. As the heart and soul of this young Utah team, Bryant showed what it means to be a class act and what it means to sacrifice for the sake of winning and, most importantly, the team.

“We’re planting the seeds right now, but I won’t be there when it grows,” Bryant said. “But that’s the card I was dealt, and I’m going to do everything I can do to lay the foundation.”

After presenting Bryant and his family with a plaque and a bouquet, Utah head coach Jim Boylen appeared to be left teary-eyed right before tip-off.

When he took the job last March, Boylen realized that Bryant would be best used as a remarkable sixth man.

In doing so, the coach and his sixth man inauspiciously portrayed the meaning of what it means to sacrifice. Boylen went on to dub Bryant a “foundation-builder.”

“Johnnie Bryant is just a great kid,” Boylen said. “I’ve tried to make him understand how to play winning basketball, and he’s ran with it coming off the bench.”

Bryant did what he does best in his last game at the Huntsman Center, finishing with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Bryant wasn’t the leading scorer, but he was the star in a sense. The crowd favorite brought the usual “JB” rain, and with 1:05 left in the game the sixth man was summoned to the Utah bench for the last time at the Hunstman Center.

Boylen was quick to embrace Bryant and gave him a strong hug. The crowd, which was hushed for most of the night, erupted and gave the departing senior a standing ovation.

Once the final buzzer sounded, Bryant was the first player to walk over to the MUSS and recognize the fans who have supported him over the years. Cheers of “JOHN-NIE BRY-ANT!” were ringing throughout the arena.

“The community’s been great, the MUSS has been great, and that’s gonna be something I remember the rest of my life,” Bryant said.

As he embraced fans and soaked in cheers, Bryant took it all in as a victor, a teammate and a friend. For someone who has been required to be the pinnacle of toughness this season, in the end, it took Bryant all the resolve he had to remain that way with his emotions.

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Tyler Cobb

Johnnie Bryant drives past Colorado State defender during Tuesday night’s game at the Huntsman Center. Bryant finished his last home game with 14 points and three rebounds.