I'll do anything for the team whether that is talking, communicating, diving on the floor. I'm more of a 3-and-D guy and then being able to develop the pick-and-roll. As you know, the NBA is 70 percent pick-and-roll, and that's one of my (areas of) expertise. —Elijah Bryant
SALT LAKE CITY — Elijah Bryant's career with BYU is over — a year earlier than the team and fans would prefer — but the shooting guard feels at peace with his decision to give up a season of college eligibility to follow his heart.
Bryant's path to a professional career — preferably the NBA, of course — included an opportunity to work out for the Utah Jazz on Saturday morning along with Virginia guard Devon Hall, South Carolina wing Brian Bowen, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, Kentucky big Wenyen Gabriel and San Diego State big Jalen McDaniels.
This was the second pre-draft tryout session for Bryant, an All-WCC first-team talent who also worked out for the Milwaukee Bucks this past week. He's got another audition lined up with the Boston Celtics and is hopeful that more chances will come his way before the June 21 draft.
"Just trying to take every day and make it count," Bryant said of making the rounds to catch the eye of NBA front offices. "I think this is a process where it’s only going to happen once, right? I think you’ve got to enjoy every single day about it and enjoy that grind. If you don’t like the grind, then this probably isn’t for you because it’s a grind."
It took Bryant some serious soul-searching to determine that the timing was right for him to endure this particular grind. He was second in the WCC in scoring as a junior last year with 18.2 points per game while also snagging an average of 6.3 rebounds with 2.3 assists.
Giving up his senior season — along with a possible NCAA Tournament run and even more personal accolades — was not a decision he took lightly. Following BYU's 2017-18 season — the Cougars went 24-11 and lost in the first round of the NIT — Bryant sat down with BYU coach Dave Rose about whether to stay or shoot for the stars.
Bryant transferred from Elon after the 2014-15 season, sat out the following year, played for BYU for two years, and had earned enough college credits to graduate prior to the end of his would-be senior year.
"I really wanted to feel out everything," Bryant said. "After I talked to Coach for the last time, I kind of wanted to go with my gut feeling after praying and really thinking about it. I wanted to live with my decision, so that’s why I decided to do it."
Though his future remains uncertain, Bryant has no regrets.
"I think," he said, "it was in my best interest to pursue this dream."
Recently promoted BYU assistant Lee Cummard attended Saturday's workout at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus. That gesture touched Bryant.
"It was hard. BYU will always be my home, and I love those guys. They’ve done so much for me," Bryant said. "One of my coaches is actually here, Lee Cummard, so the support is always there. I always have support for them. They always have support from me. It’s one big family."
Bryant has been training in Las Vegas and plans on returning before his next workout later this month with the Celtics. He hopes his agents will field more invitations.
Bryant made himself a more valuable player in college and certainly upped his professional stock by improving his outside shooting last season. As a sophomore, he only shot 27.8 percent from 3-point range, but that skyrocketed to 41.5 percent on two more attempts per game (5.9 vs. 3.9) as a junior.
"I think the biggest thing I can offer a team is shooting," Bryant said.
Bryant, now 23 years old, knows he'll need to continue developing to make it at the next level, but he's confident in his ability to do that and to enhance a team with some intangibles.
"I’ll do anything for the team whether that is talking, communicating, diving on the floor," he said. "I'm more of a 3-and-D guy and then being able to develop the pick-and-roll. As you know, the NBA is 70 percent pick-and-roll, and that's one of my (areas of) expertise."
The Jazz invite local collegiate players to work out every offseason, but the fact that Bryant is being invited by other teams shows that this wasn't just an act of kindness from Utah. Bryant has the skill set and athleticism to make a living playing basketball.
"He’s got a nice body," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said of the 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard. "He shot the ball very well, probably one of the better shooters that we had in terms of the Jazz 100 (drill) in terms of the numbers. Of course he’s got some things he really needs to work on, but I thought he had a very good workout."
Even though he left early, Bryant remains loyal to the blue true and through.
"BYU fans have obviously wanted me to stay, but they understand because I’ll graduate and be able to chase my dream," he said. "So a lot of people have been very supportive of me chasing this dream."