Mike Hutton: Bryce has instant impact at Valparaiso
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com July 6, 2011 5:30PM
Valparaiso University's new men's basketball head coach Bryce Drew (second from left) talks with former and current players (from left) Tommy Kurth, Ben Boggs and Howard Little. The university's Harre Union hosted a press conference Tuesday May 17, 2011 announcing the retirement of Homer Drew (not pictured) and the promotion of Bryce Drew from assistant coach to head coach. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:54AM
The problem isn’t solved just yet.
But Bryce Drew made a gigantic dent in the problem when he landed Nick Davidson, the best local guard to commit to Valparaiso University since Drew himself decided on the Crusaders over Syracuse 18 years ago.
The problem — the problem that everyone in basketball circles in this area knows about, whispers about, and has ripped VU about over the years — was its inability to recruit region guys.
It’s easier to get a transfer from Virginia Tech to play at VU than it is to ride down to Lowell and convince Austin Richie that VU, not Western Michigan, is the best place for him.
The kids getting recruited always said the same thing after they picked Loyola or WMU or some place other than VU.
Homer Drew is a great guy. It’s a great program. They did a great job recruiting me.
I wanted to play somewhere that wasn’t so close to home.
The other school was a better fit for me academically.
VU was my second choice.
Understand this. Davidson is no Bryce Drew. He’s a 6-4 point guard with a huge upside who just finished his sophomore year. Maybe some day he can be Drew. And that, in a nutshell, is what Drew has to offer a kid who was recruited by Butler and who just spent a day at Indiana for an unofficial visit. Drew was a legitimate top 50 recruit who led his team to the state championship game. Davidson is possibly a top 100 player when it all ends, but he still has a long way to go.
Drew has an NBA pension, Sweet 16 experience and six years of coaching chops that were developed sitting next to his dad, one of the best game coaches in the business.
Davidson had some parameters in mind when he made the call. He wanted to play right away. He wanted the school to be good academically and he wanted to be a point guard. And he wanted a coach who could help him become like the player that Drew was.
That made his decision easier.
Could this have happened under Homer? Perhaps, but maybe not. It already did with Bryce.
It pays to be hip and young and to understand social media and to have an NBA background.
Just listen to Bowman coach Marvin Rea, who has a pretty good junior player named Elijah Ray, who has VU among the schools he’s considering.
Drew has that understated aw-shucks personality that complements his all-American good looks. Throw in the NBA stuff and the competitive drive and it can be an irresistible combination for the right players — whether they live in Munster, Missouri or Virginia.
It really is a different climate out there for potential VU players.
“When Bryce comes into the gym, kids think he is still 21 or 22,” Rea said. “He changed the whole staff. He knows how to get on Facebook. I’m not taking anything away from his dad. I love that program. It’s a great program. I hope some of my kids go there. I think Bryce is going to turn it around.”
The buzz around Drew is glowing red-hot now, and the Crusaders are still four-plus months away from their first game.
IU castoff Bobby Capobianco is transferring. Will Bogan, a product of Ole Miss, is finishing his final season of eligibility with VU. And Roger Powell, Jr., an Illinois graduate, filled a glaring need for a black assistant — though Rea downplayed the black assistant hire, saying that it doesn’t matter who is recruiting the kids as long as they can connect and relate with the kids.
That perception was a problem when Homer was coach and Bryce was an assistant.
“Homer is a great guy,” Rea said. “Bryce could recruit for him and say whatever he had to to get a kid there, but at the end of the day, his dad was going to have the final say. That was all fine and good but we needed to hear that from Homer. Homer is a great coach. Once he gets them there, he develops them.”
This is all good stuff for the Crusaders — much more exciting than the transition from Homer to Bryce itself — which was as expected as the W-2 forms that arrive every year in the mail.
Solving the next part of the problem is a bit trickier: Trying to get in the same zip code as Butler.
That, my friends, is a whole different story for another day.