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Center Grove senior has scorer’s mentality

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Center Grove boys basketball player Tyler Bryant kicked off the 2013-14 season launching jump shots in the gymnasium where he’ll be doing so this evening.

The 3-point striping at Franklin Community High School proved friendly to the 6-foot-1 senior in the Trojans’ 56-44 victory against the Grizzly Cubs on Nov. 26.

Bryant, who knocked down six treys on his way to a career-best 34 points, has been shooting ever since.

“I thought my Franklin game was probably my best of the season,” said Bryant, who 10 days later put on another long-range clinic with 33 points in a 71-54 blowout of New Palestine, a game in which one successful baseline trey came with Bryant fading away and a defender in his face.

“My worst was against Pike (a 74-50 loss in which he finished an unsightly 1 of 13 from deep). I was just off. I was aiming the ball instead of just shooting it.”

The hoops lineage of the lone 12th-grader on coach Cliff Hawkins’ roster is traced to games played at the Baxter YMCA as a child.

Bryant’s varsity debut at Center Grove came two years ago. As a sophomore he came off the bench to take part in 17 of 21 games, averaging 3.8 points. His role expanded tremendously last season with averages of 14.5 points, 3.4 boards and 1.3 assists.

Based largely on 31-of-84 (.369) 3-point shooting, Bryant is second on the team in scoring at 18 points a game. He’s also good for 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest.

Bryant’s since-graduated teammates had their time. His current ones will have theirs.

These belong to Bryant, who leads the Trojans (6-4) into tonight’s Johnson County Tournament semifinal game against Edinburgh (5-2).

“In Tyler’s role, he is one of our leaders and someone we need to get the basketball to,” Hawkins said. “He’s been working toward a consistency of getting his feet set and does have a quick release. Tyler’s been working on that, and part of that is that he’s defended so hard.”

Despite his slender build, Bryant isn’t afraid to mix it up inside to corral offensive rebounds. The senior’s 16 offensive boards are most on the team, as are his 47 free-throw attempts.

“Tyler is getting to the free-throw line more. I really appreciate that he’s learning different ways to score points for us,” Hawkins said.

As Bryant approaches the 600-point plateau for his career (he’s currently at 578), he’s grateful to be playing a major role for a program competing in a conference (Metropolitan Interscholastic) commonly referred to as the state’s best.

“I think I’m having a pretty good season so far,” Bryant said. “I’m rebounding a little better and trying to be more consistent with my shot. I can always get more people involved instead of being just a shooter. But I know that’s my strength. I’ve always been told shooters shoot.”

Sometimes Bryant’s rapid-released rainbows give the nets the briefest of workouts. Other times they don’t.

That’s Bryant, who with a basketball in his grasp is always a threat to put points on the board with either a jump shot or drive to the basket.

Best of all, you don’t need to ask twice.

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