Alex Roux, BTN.com editor, January 5, 2017
In an era of ?one-and-dones? in college basketball, Thomas Bryant probably could have put himself among them. Our crew from "The Journey" profiles Bryant and his decision as part of Sunday's season debut at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The Indiana sophomore had NBA potential last year as a freshman. If he had declared for the NBA Draft after one season, a team likely would have drafted the 6-foot-10 big man, and someone definitely would have signed him. But even though he was a Third-team All-Big Ten selection as a freshman, Bryant believed he wasn?t quite ready for the pros.
?I knew I needed to come back,? Bryant said at Big Ten Media Day in October. ?I knew before last season was over.?
Hoosier coach Tom Crean and Indiana fans could breathe easy knowing their cornerstone in the post would be back. For Indiana's opponents, Bryant was another weapon they would have to worry about. His versatility and ability to run the floor, establish post position and finish in traffic is a nightmare matchup for opposing big men.
But we already knew that last season. He came back to improve, and it?s showing in the box score and on the floor.
Bryant has solidified his all-around game in his second college season, increasing his average number of rebounds, assists, blocks and free throw attempts per contest. His 11.7 point-per-game average is nearly identical to last season, and his improved outside jumper is reflected in a ten-point jump in 3-point percentage to 43 percent.
Bryant?s motives for returning weren?t solely focused on self-improvement. Following Indiana?s loss to North Carolina in the 2016 NCAA tournament, teammate Juwan Morgan knew by the look in Bryant?s eye that there was unfinished business for the team to attend to.
As a student of Indiana?s rich basketball history, Bryant was also fueled by a desire to try and add to the collection of five national title banners hanging behind the baseline at Assembly Hall.
Despite the Hoosiers? recent rough patch, Indiana?s deep pool of talent means that lofty tournament expectations are still achievable. If they?re going to make some serious noise in March, Bryant will likely be front and center.