Science Hill baseball and basketball standout David Bryant did both.
“He’s an athlete and he’s a winner,” said Hilltoppers’ basketball coach Ken Cutlip. “I think that is something that sets him apart.”
Bryant was honored Friday as the Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News Male Athlete of the Year for Northeast Tennessee.
An integral part of the Hilltoppers’ success on the hardwood and the diamond, Bryant helped both teams make state-level noise. In basketball, the shooting guard helped the Hilltoppers win 25 games, the Big Seven Conference title, and the Region 1-AAA championship before a tough sectional loss to Knox Powell.
In baseball, Bryant’s play at shortstop was a big reason the Hilltoppers reached the Class AAA state tournament.
“First of all, it was his range,” said Science Hill baseball coach Ryan Edwards. “They all talked about (former major-league star) Cal Ripken being in the right place at the right time, and that’s how I felt David was. He understood the hitters and their speed. His field awareness was unbelievable. That’s why he was one of the best shortstops I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching. And he has a great arm.”
Bryant, with what Edwards called “a beautiful left-handed swing,” also had a flair for the dramatic when he was at the plate. He drove in what turned out to be the winning run in the sectional contest against Knox Karns, homered for the Hilltoppers’ lone run in the state loss to Collierville, and homered again in the seventh inning to give Science Hill one last hope in the season-ending loss to Murfreesboro Siegel.
Add it all up, and Edwards said he thinks Bryant will have a chance to play beyond his days at Radford University.
“I think he will do well at Radford, and I think he will be a professional baseball player one of these days,” said Edwards. “He has that kind of ability.”
Bryant’s hardwood prowess included a consistent knock-down 3-point jumper. He averaged 11 points per game and had a career-high 30-point effort in a road win against Unicoi County, where he made eight treys. He was an All-Big Seven Conference selection and made the All-District 1-AAA tournament team in both basketball and baseball.
“I felt like he always thrived in pressure situations,” said Cutlip. “He wasn’t afraid to take the big shot. I think baseball kids are prepared for pressure situations in basketball because every game in baseball they are put in the pressure situation of being at bat by themselves — kind of like shooting a free throw.
“And I think guys who play more than one sport are good team guys. They find a way to fit in. And that’s something I can say about David. He was an outstanding teammate.”
With a GPA of 3.6, Bryant also found time to get things done in the classroom. That’s good for a kid who spent so much time competing for the Hilltoppers.
“He’s one of those guys who hated to lose,” said Edwards. “He wasn’t vocal so much, but everybody could see every moment how competitive he was, and they would fall in line behind him.”