Men’s Hoops: Bryant wasn’t born to shoot

By By Taz Emilia and By Taz Emilia

By Taz Emilia

It turns out there is a perfectly good reason why Runnin’ Ute senior Johnnie Bryant has yet to meet a shot he didn’t like, and it has everything to do with his childhood.

Between the ages of 12 and 15, a freak neck injury forced Bryant to be fitted with horse blinders.

“At first I thought he just didn’t like to pass,” Utah head coach Jim Boylen said. “It turns out that he lacks the same peripheral that you or I have.”

During a pickup basketball game, Bryant was driving the baseline when the then-pass-first guard neared the basket and passed it off to a cutting teammate. That’s when ninth grader Calvin “Bubba” Shipnuck threw his hip into Bryant and sent the 12-year-old neck-first into the basketball pole.

“The doctors didn’t know if he would ever walk again,” said Bryant’s mother, Brenda. For three months, doctors experimented with different methods to keep Bryant from suddenly moving his head to the left or to the right.

“Adolescent males have a hard time refraining from noticing adolescent females,” said Bryant’s doctor, Brian Phillips. “Given the early age at which Johnnie was able to grow a mustache, we thought there was a good chance his libido would jeopardize his chances of making a full recovery.”

At first, doctors tried fitting Bryant with an Elizabethan, or space, collar-which is typically used for dogs. When that didn’t work, Bryant was fitted with a more radical approach.

“At first I didn’t want to wear the horse blinders,” Bryant said. “They were awkward, but I knew that if I wanted to play basketball, I’d have to get use to them.”

As an eighth grader, Bryant set the California middle school record for most touches without a single pass at 52.

“Yeah, I felt guilty, but what else was I supposed to do?” Bryant said. “With the horse blinders on I figured I was more likely to turn the ball over, so I just shot.”

The blinders eventually forced Bryant to turn into a proficient shooter, but over the course of three years, Bryant’s peripheral vision took a turn for the worse. To this day Bryant feels the effects of the three-year process.

“I can approach him from the left or the right and give him a wet willy without him even seeing me,” teammate Lawrence Borha said.

“I don’t condone wet willies because I’ve never really liked them myself,” Boylen said. “But if Johnnie misses a free throw, I’m thankful that I can make sure one of my guys gets what is coming to him.”

Boylen said Bryant’s disability played into his decision to make Johnnie come off the bench.

“Luke likes to shoot, too,” Boylen said earlier in the year. “I can’t see it making much sense to have two reluctant passers on the floor at the same time.”

Coincidently, Nevill came of the bench for the last five games of the season. After coming under fire for making his two best players come off the bench, Boylen responded in an interesting way.

“If a bear shits in the woods, does anyone smell it?” Boylen said.

Warning: This article should only be read in the context of April Fool’s Day.

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