With the absence of Scottie Wilbekin, Maccabi Tel Aviv needed players to step up to pick up the offensive slack and that’s exactly what Elijah Brigham Bryant did for Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad. The BYU product who arrived in the offseason from Hapoel Eilat Eilat picked up his offensive pace and scored early, late and in between for the Yellow & Blue.
“He played great,” stated captain Jake Cohen. “Amare (Stoudemire) said it to him in the locker room that he showed great patience, making the right decisions and making sure the spacing was good before he attacked. It was a great offensive game for him not just because of the points he scored but how smart he played.”
There’s no question that Bryant is one smart player as he has gone through a transformation of sorts this season after starring for the Red Sea city squad last year where he was primarily a volume scorer under Sharon Drucker. At Maccabi, Bryant has made huge leaps in his overall game play while featuring for the first time in continental play.
Up until the home game against Khimki, Bryant has been a defensive stopper, learning the ways of Euroleague basketball from Sfairopoulos and his staff. He has pestered opposing guards game in and game out while only notching double digits in points in 9 of the 22 contests he has played in, but against Khimki he recorded his Euroleague high with 21 points. “I’m proud of Elijah, man,” Quincy Acy said after the game. “He came in and attacked, hard fought through the fouls and showed a lot of poise.”
Bryant picked up a pair of foul early limiting him to only 4:51 in the first quarter but he was able to tune out the foul issues for the balance of the game, playing a team high 27+ minutes. Of course, it’s no surprise that Bryant is able to deal with adversity on the court, because he has had to deal with some off of it as well.
After playing a lone season at Elon University in North Carolina, Bryant transferred to Brigham Young University where he had to sit out a year due to NCAA regulations. However, knee issues came up during the 2016/17 campaign and the guard needed to go through physical rehab but also become mentally tough as he told Jeff Call of the Desert News. Reading Jay Bilas’s book “Toughness” which featured a chapter about former NBA star Grant Hill’s trials and tribulations with injuries he understood that not only did you have to be tough on the floor but off of it as well giving him a positive mindset as to how to deal with adversity.
Bryant, who was named Elijah for the prophet from the Bible as well as LDS Church President Brigham Young came back stronger than ever from injury as he followed as a leader just like his two namesakes and was named co-captain of the Cougars and posted 18.3 points in his final year at the school. After going undrafted, he landed up in Eilat following an NBA Summer League appearance with the Philadelphia 76ers. Down south Bryant flourished as his professional career got underway as he scored at a 17.5 points per game clip and led his team to the Israel Winner League Final Four where his side ultimately fell to Maccabi Tel Aviv in a hard fought battle.
As he departed Yad Eliyahu after the defeat I snapped a picture with him as I thought he would land an NBA contract over the summer as he hooked up with the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League team. However, the NBA still wasn’t in the cards as the Yellow & Blue scooped Bryant up and returned him to Israel which also happens to be the name of his mother.
The 6”5, 210 lb guard is averaging 8.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2 assists per game in the Euroleague checks in with 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in the Israeli league, but as they say, numbers don’t always give the complete picture of what type of player but better yet what type of person Bryant really is.
The always modest and mature Bryant who married Jenelle Fraga in 2017 just ahead of his last season at BYU, can be referred to as a “Mensch” tried not to take any credit for the team’s win. But after a bit of prodding, he spoke about his development this year, “I think basketball is basketball. I think for me it’s just patience and be able to find my reads. Trust in my work and trust in my teammates and the coach puts trusts in us which gives us confidence on the court.”
With the confidence and poise as a veteran, the skies the limit for the 24-year old and there is no doubt that it is just time until he reaches his ultimate dream of one day playing in the NBA.