It is no coincidence that Joe Bryant’s arrival coincided with the recent successful run of Norfolk State basketball. In three of Bryant’s four seasons at Norfolk State, the Spartans have at least won a share of the MEAC regular season championship and made trips to the NCAA Tournament.
I spoke with the 2021-22 MEAC Player of the Year about the season, the team’s play, and his legacy at Norfolk State.
What would you say has been the best game you’ve played this season?
JB: So I would say probably one of the Hampton games or the Maryland Eastern Shore game where we played them at their place. Yeah, it was definitely a rowdy crowd and a close game. I hit big shots down the stretch to help us win a game, so I would say that game. (Bryant scored 25 points and recorded five assists in a 76-73 win over UMES on Feb. 11).
When you play well, are you able to look at some of the positive things that you did and try to carry over into subsequent games as well, or is it more of its own separate thing?
JB: Well, you know, every game is different. Teams, defensive schemes, or whatever [the] scouting is on me. I just try to watch the film, just trying to make adjustments to whatever the defense is doing. Sometimes they might trap me whenever I come with a ball screen in one game. The next game, they might play drop coverage, or they might hard hedge or something like that. So, you know, it’s all about making adjustments.
When did you fall in love with the game of basketball?
JB: I mean, I’ve been playing basketball since I was like four years old. [I played] basketball and football. I was a multi-sport athlete. I played two sports up until my sophomore year in high school, and then that’s why I stopped playing football to focus on basketball.
What happened to make you zero in more on basketball than football?
JB: The high school football coach. I had to choose between basketball and football. He said I couldn’t play both sports at the same time. So I just focused on basketball.
Who was your favorite basketball player growing up?
JB: I have liked LeBron since I can remember. I want to say since his third year in the league.
When did you know that basketball could take you somewhere?
JB: I always knew I was good. You know, but I just never really focused on the sport. But I knew if I were to say [when I was a ] junior in high school, that year after, I chose to play one sport. That’s what I knew I was gonna be doing. I really just worked out a lot that whole summer. I was going to try to get my body right. So I would say my junior year is when I knew.
Your mother, Helen played D1 basketball at Penn State. How did her knowledge and experience help and influence your development as a basketball player?
JB: Yeah, definitely. You know, whenever the game is going on, and she’s talking, I can hear her voice out of everyone in the crowd. She’ll give me a lot of tips and stuff about offense, defense, what to do on a court, and how to approach stuff off the court. I can always go to her, and she definitely tells me the right thing to do.
Since you’ve been at Norfolk State, the program has enjoyed a high level of success. When your time comes to an end, and people think back on Joe Bryant Jr’s time at Norfolk State, what do you want them to say? How do you want to be remembered as a basketball player?
JB: That he was, you know, just a flat-out hooper. He’s a dog on the court. One of the greatest to put on Norfolk State uniform.