MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — He mostly went under the radar around Christmas time, sort of a footnote to West Virginia basketball history.
Most of the time it came in agate form, if at all, more of a social media ad than anything in mainstream media, but it tasted bittersweet.
Truck Bryant was retiring from professional basketball.
Time, you see, is unstoppable. It really didn’t seem like a career had passed since the last time he played guard in West Virginia, that infectious smile, the pure joy he projected every time he was on the floor. .
A decade had passed, more than a decade since he had been a key part of Bob Huggins’ Final Four team that included so many shining names in Mountaineer history: Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Joe Mazzulla and, yes, Truck Bryant.
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But to continue playing the game he loved after his mountaineering career ended, he had to become a world traveler, a nomad in shorts and Nike. It was fascinating, enriching both culturally and financially…and then, last December, I realized it was time to stop.
“To be honest, I have two young daughters, a nine-year-old and a three-year-old,” he recalled the other day. “I was thinking like ‘Damn, I’ve been playing basketball overseas for nine or 10 years and I wanted to be in my daughters’ lives more.
Don’t worry about finances. This was taken care of, and Valentina and Eva would be free to get to know their father. He was going to be home, an entrepreneur, owner of three residential and commercial cleaning businesses – Truck Bryant Cleaning Crew – in Charleston, Morgantown and his hometown of New York.
“I had a backup plan before I retired,” he said.
He had that and memories… so many memories.
“Think about this: I had an incredible time and a long career. In fact, I had a healthy career, the most important thing. The last time I was injured was in the tournament of the NCAA when we went to the Final Four,” he said.
He was an ironman as a player, I pointed out to him that he had played 135 games at WVU, been on the court for 3,824 minutes. And he shot the ball 1,268 times.
“It looks like me,” he said. “I still haven’t come across a shot that I didn’t like.”
The only problem came during the Final Four race, when he injured his foot in the Sweet 16.
“I broke my fifth metatarsal,” he said, referring to one of the small bones near the little toe. “I tried to play on it. I could run, but I couldn’t cut at all. I had to sit out the Final Four game.
Joe Mazzulla, who had just returned from a shoulder injury that kept him from raising his left arm above shoulder height all season, replaced him and had the game of his life. , scoring 18 points and leading WVU past Kentucky in the Finals. Four.
“I’m a big competitor, so it hurts a lot not being able to help my teammates, but at the end of the day, it was a great experience,” Bryant said. “Joe played well and led us but for me I wanted to be there. I could handle it because we won the game. I was just cheering them on.
Bob Huggins had recruited him from New York, where he had played for St. Raymond for Boys.
“Huggs and Coach (Larry) Harrison saw me play Peach Jam in 2007. It was me, Kemba Walker and George Theodore,” Bryant said of the top trio. “As soon as I got back from Peach Jam, I got a call from Coach Harrison and he offered me a scholarship. So I came down to West Virginia and loved this place. It was like a family with the coaching staff… that’s still the case to this day, they’re still my family.
It was Truck and some friends traveling from New York to Morgantown.
“Once I got committed to West Virginia, I’m sure that played a big part in deciding KJ (Kevin Jones) and Devin Ebanks. We knew each other growing up in New York.
His career ended averaging 11.8 points per game, finishing with 1,580 career points. He asked the NBA to watch it, but they succeeded, and it hurts.
“The ultimate goal has always been the NBA,” he said. “I had the chance to train for a few NBA teams out of college. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about playing overseas. In fact, the first contract that I was offered was overseas and I didn’t take it was $7000 or $8000 a month plus tax…maybe that’s the only thing I regret coming out of college You are a child coming out of university, you don’t know that there is a lot of money abroad.
He wasn’t going to give up basketball though.
It’s been everything to me since I was young,” he said, speaking of the sport almost as one would speak of a lifelong mistress. “I had a great career…I had a great career in Division I, playing at one of the best high schools in New York, a great professional career.”
However, his professional career did not take him from Madison Square Garden to Milwaukee, from Los Angeles to Seattle, from Boston to Miami.
“We traveled to 12 different countries, lived for free in these different countries and received a good amount of money. It was a blessing. It was fun… of course I had bad times too, but relatively I had a lot of good times,” he said.
There are not many people who can say that they lived in Belarus, Bulgaria, Austria, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Qatar, Dominican Republic, Canada for a little while, in America in the G League, in Uruguay, Finland and Iran. Not many can spell these countries or mark them on a map, but they made up Bryant’s career path.
“The teammates I had have become a family to me. I’ve met a lot of people in different countries. It’s a blessing to have these people in my life today,” he said.
But in the end, it all comes down to the teammates he had at WVU on the Final Four team.
“That 2010 team was just a great team,” Bryant said. “Sometimes we had a lot of problems in the team but, at the end of the day, I think we were so good that no matter what we were going through, when we stepped onto the pitch, we supported each other.”
These links continue today.
“It was a great group of guys, and to this day we still talk to each other,” Bryant said. “Just a month ago, Mazzulla (now Boston Celtics assistant coach) left me tickets to a Celtics game. We’re still brothers today.