By Niki Bakouli/ firstname.lastname@example.org
John Bryant is no Blake Griffin but he came really close to the NBA star back in the 2008-09. Both of them played in college, Griffin was the top rebounder (14.4) and Bryant was just 0.2 rpg behind him (14.2). Still that was not enough for him to earn a chance in the NBA, so he took an other route. After a season in NBADL he sign with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany and now, three years later, he is the leader of the team as it faces Bilbao in the Eurocup’s quarterfinals second leg, having won the first game 85-81. Eurohoops spoke to him about his journey so far, just before one of the biggest game of his career and Ulm’s history.
- From the beginning of the season, after the road win at Cholet Basket (by 20 points), it was clear that Ulm chases big things out of Eurocup, even though they are newcomers. How much work you put into this effort as a team?
“We put in a lot of effort over the beginning of the season to get ourselves ready for Eurocup and it was everyone’s first international experience so I think everyone was hungry to win and show that we are a good enough team to play internationally”.
- What it takes to make it look easy, even though it’s not so far, since we already know you put some extra work last summer, to be the best you could at your team’s first year at Eurocup?
“It may look easy but it is not it took me a lot of hard work and hours of extra time in the gym to get where I am today.. I’m not finished though, there are going to be a lot more hours spent in the gym”.
- In Germany they knew you really well (you were the MVP of 2011-2012 season among other things). Now, Europe gets to know you. Does this put any pressure on you?
“Yeah it’s a little difficult when you are he focus of every teams defense but that is just something you have to deal with and with the team we have we can score from any position. So, if I get the focus of he defense my teammates get a lot of open looks”.
- Your wish was Ulm to make some noise in the Europe. And you made this noise. What you will need to reach the end of the road and to get a spot at next year’s Euroleague?
“The short answer to that is to keep winning games. We have the potential we just need to go out there every time and play and play to win”.
- As Ulm made noise, you did too. You have an excellent Last16 and double-double seems to be your thing. You have dominated the paint. Explain yourself…
“Well, I just want to go out there and compete and play to win every game. Εver since college I have been putting up good numbers and I’m moving up and getting better and that is my goal everyday is to get better”.
- Other than two point shots, cause I guess it’s hard for anybody to stop you, when you are under the basket, you also have scored some threes…
“Yeah, that is something that I have always been able to do but this is the first time the coach has given me the green light to shoot when open and now that I have gained more confidence in shooting in the games. Μy shooting ability is getting better and better”.
- How would you describe your game? How much better you are after three seasons with Ulm in Europe?
“I would describe it as a player that wants to win and goes out every night and plays hard with a good back to the basket game and shooting ability and a good rebounder. My time in Ulm has been nothing but great for me and I improved a lot over my three years here and look forward to continuing to get better.”
- Who was the best opponent you had so far? The harder one in Eurocup and in BBL?
“Ian Vougioukas from Kazan was really tough because of his size and skill and just his basketball knowledge, but it was great playing against him to see how he plays and learn from it”.
-What’s your opinion about the German League, which is getting better and better each year? What can you say about the atmosphere in full arenas and everything that BBL stands for?
“Yes, the BBL is getting better and better each year and I think it will continue to do so and I think it will be one of the top leagues in the coming years. The arenas when packed are a lot of fun to play in because the crowds energy just gets you going and makes you play even harder”.
- Which is the root of your love for Ulm? How is life in Germany?
“The root of my love is that they were the ones that took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to play. Τhe people here are very friendly and made my time easy here. My life in Germany is great the people are great and the culture is very compatible with my lifestyle so it was very easy for me to adjust to the German way of life”.
- Sky is the limit for your team, but let’s speak also about the actual goals. Can you make it to BBL’s Finals?
“Yes, the sky is the limit but we as a team have to get ourselves focused on every game individually and go out there and play hard every night. The goals are to make the playoffs and from there anything can happen”.
- Since you are still young, are you thinking about the NBA? Is there a possibility to go back in USA? What was the reason you didn’t find a place at the NBA, out of college, being the second rebounder of the nation, behind Blake Griffin?
“It is every kid’s dream to play in the NBA and if I do find a spot somewhere I would be very happy. Ιf I doesn’t, my life in overseas basketball is great too. As to the reason I didn’t find a spot, I don’t know. My entire career I have been overlooked because of my weight, but my numbers I put up are good and should give me at least a shot to find a spot”.
- Do you miss California?
“Yes, of course there is nothing like California and I miss the weather and the food and my family and I can’t wait until I go back this summer. Although my life in Germany is great, California will forever be my home”.