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A whole new level: Newberry’s Taylor Bryant ready for challenge of college basketball

Newberry’s Taylor Bryant, left, extends for a layup against the defense of Munising’s Frankie Mattson during a game played at Munising High School in December 2015. (Journal file photo)

NEWBERRY — Leading a basketball team can be a difficult task, but Newberry’s Taylor Bryant makes it look easy.

The senior guard was the go-to player for the Indians for her all four of her years in high school, and even though she gets double-teamed every game, Bryant still wanted the ball and embraced her role as Newberry’s leader.

Last season that was particularly important with a team mostly made up of freshmen and sophomores.

“I think it’s my best quality and feel I’m a pretty good one on and off the court,” she said about leading the team. “The girls come to me with their problems and I like to be there for them and lead them in the right direction.”

Bryant isn’t just an emotional leader, she’s Newberry’s statistical leader as well. She averaged 19.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, six assists and 6.5 steals per game last season, just about as dominant as possible at this level. Bryant is also Newberry’s all-time leading scorer with 1,472 points — that’s for either the boys or the girls.

As a result, accolades have piled up over the years. She made The Associated Press all-state Class C First Team this year, the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association’s All-U.P. Dream Team the last three seasons and was Class D U.P. Player of the Year in 2016.

To sum it up, Bryant was Newberry’s not-so-secret weapon that could be deployed anywhere on the court. She guarded post players down low and kept up with speedy guards, which is what she prefers doing because she liked to “pick off as many passes as I can.” Seeing how she averages more steals per game than some teams do, it’s hard to blame her.

With these eye-popping stats and multiple awards, it wouldn’t be surprising if some major college programs blew up her cell phone on a regular basis. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case, though she has gotten some nice offers.

She’s taking a look at Ferris State and Grand Valley State, but also seems to really like Division I Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which would be a significant leap for her coming from a town of 1,500 people.

Bryant takes pride in coming from a small town, though. She says the community gets behind the Indians and that it’s great to know who is in the stands rooting you on.

“The community is so tight and everyone has your back,” she said. “No matter what, win or lose, they’ll show up and be watching you. You always know they’re there and it’s nice knowing everyone, too.

“When I play in college, I’m not going to know everyone in the stands, but I know everyone here. It’ll be an adjustment, but that’s the big thing that I will miss.”

Spring sports have begun with Bryant on both track and field and softball teams, but while temperatures have gotten warmer, she still can be found in the gym practicing her pull-up jumper.

Even when she leaves the gym, she can’t escape the game as her father, Fred, is the Indians head coach and they chat frequently after Taylor says she “schools” her dad on the court.

“It’s good and bad with my dad as coach,” she said with a laugh. “It’s good because he expects the most out of me and he’ll push me to the limit or even farther because he thinks I have potential.

“Sometimes it’s bad because we bring it back to the house and talk about it all the time. I can’t escape it, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

All that talk must’ve rubbed off on Bryant, who says that she enjoys basketball more every time she hits the court.

“My dad was in the gym all the time and he brought us into the gym when we were younger,” she said. “I think it just rubbed off on me. I’ve always loved it and I still do. My love of the game grows more and more each time I play.”

That ever-growing love for the game shows observers how great of a leader Bryant is and how great she could be in the future.

“Being a leader is a part of me,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d be without that trait. I take it with a lot of pride and it takes a lot of effort, but it feels good when people look up to you or come to you for help.”

Wherever Bryant goes off to play ball, one thing is for certain — she’ll be at the top.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.