It was Bryce Williams’ junior year. He and the South Sumter High School basketball team were up in Georgia for a tournament. Williams’ game was top of the line. So naturally, he was excited.
“We show up and first game, and they shut him down,” South Sumter coach Anthony Bryant told the O’Colly. "They knew who he was. I think he had 10 points and we lost by 40. He took that to heart. Then we end up making it to the championship game and playing that same team again. We won in double overtime, and Bryce went for 45.”
Williams laid his imprints all over South Sumter — in Bushnell, Florida — before heading to Daytona State College for two years then Ole Miss for another. Now he’s decided to make a final move transferring to OSU as a part of coach Mike Boynton’s top-5 recruiting class.
Still, all these years later, Bryant can’t forget that one story with Williams.
Why? It perfectly encapsulated who Williams is.
“Bryce is one of those kids you don’t really have to say anything,” Bryant said with a chuckle. “There was nothing I could have told him that he didn’t know. We had that relationship. After the game, I just put my arm around him and go, ‘You know.’ He goes, ‘Yeah coach, my defense was poor.’ He was one of those kids that already knew.”
It wasn’t about the 10 points. Williams knew his team needed his points to win that game, and he felt like he let everyone down. He put the loss on himself.
Bryant said Williams wasn’t just a guy who could score, he was a guy who would break down an entire defense and still be willing to pass the ball to an open man — an unselfish kid who didn’t care about his point total.
And that was with Williams averaging 28 points per game at South Sumter.
With that sort of production, it’s crazy to consider that Williams didn’t receive a single Division I offer out of high school. But that had more to do with his grades than his skill level.
Bryant said Williams had a ton of DI interest out of high school, but Williams had to settle with two years at a JUCO before transferring to Ole Miss.
Despite his talent, Williams didn’t play much at Ole Miss before he decided to dart to OSU.
“From what I’m hearing from him, Oklahoma State just feels more like home,” Bryant said. “I guess (OSU) welcomed him with open arms. He never really got into what happened at Ole Miss, we never got that far. But he’s been excited to show up with (OSU) and play. I think the decision came down to: Bryce has always wanted to feel wanted. That’s all he ever wanted.
“Basketball comes second nature to him. But feeling wanted is something he’s always prided himself in and feeling needed, I think that played a major role in his decision to join OSU.”
With Boynton and a coaching staff that includes Erik Pastrana, Williams’ coach at Daytona State, there’s a sense of familiarity.
It’s been a few years since Pastrana coached Williams, but even longer since Bryant has. Since then, Bryant has seen Williams grow — physically and mentally.
“Just watching him become a young man has been an incredible journey,” Bryant said. “He goes from that little 6-foot freshman to a 6-3 phenomenal senior guard. And you’re like, ‘Wow.’ I saw him a couple of weeks ago, and he’s grown a lot since as far as the mental capacity: how he thinks about the guys, the opportunities he’s had and his future endeavours.”
That little 6-foot guard didn’t even play organized basketball until he started at South Sumter. In fact, Bryant actually had to force Williams to play at the varsity level.
While Williams was still extremely raw as a freshman, Bryant saw the potential that no one else did — not even his wife.
“When he was a freshman, I told my wife: ‘This kid’s going to the best player I’ve ever coached,’” Bryant said. “She never saw it. She’s like, ‘That one?’ I said, ‘He’s going to be special.’ Because he was just an OK talent, but I saw the intangibles of stuff you couldn’t teach for a kid that’s never played organized ball.
“From Day One, I knew Bryce Williams was Division I talent.”
Now Williams has transformed himself into that DI talent Bryant predicted so many years ago.
Like Bryant said, it all started the intangibles. And one of the biggest intangibles was Williams’ coachability, which helps the two have a strong bond — on and off the court.
“I could tell Bryce to go left when everybody knows he should go right, and he never batted an eye,” Bryant said. “From his freshman year, he did whatever I asked him to do, and he trusted the process. He’s one of those kids that when he finds that relationship with you, he’ll do whatever you ask him to do, whether he feels it’s right or he feels it’s wrong. He’s a very coachable kid.”
That relationship spilled over to life too. Williams consistently came to Bryant for advice. That was the nature of their relationship.
Even to this day, the two have that same bond. They talk as often as possible, and Williams still knows who South Sumter plays on any given night.
That relationship is only amplified by the person Williams is off the court. Bryant describes Williams as a happy-go-lucky guy who’s the life of the party, always bringing excitement and energy.
He said Williams is a family-orientated guy who’s always trying to do things with his teammates outside of basketball.
Now Williams will take those qualities and join Boynton’s program.
“He’s just a pleasure to be around,” Bryant said. “I’ve never seen bad days out of him. He doesn’t get in trouble, never had an issue with him. It’s hard to replace that type of kid.”