Elijah Bryant follows former Cougars on path to pros

Elijah Bryant
Lee Cummard and Elijah Bryant meet up at the Utah Jazz draft workout on May 15. In 2009, Cummard was preparing to enter the NBA draft. (Elijah Bryant)

The 2018 NBA draft is on Thursday, June 21, and one BYU player is hoping to hear his name called.

Elijah Bryant announced his departure from BYU in April and has since worked out with six NBA teams in hopes of achieving his professional dream.

The highlight of the draft preparation process for Bryant was a workout with the Utah Jazz, which he said was his best performance. He also worked out with the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies.

“I’m waiting for another workout and then the draft,” Bryant said. “Then I’ll get into summer league and take it one step at a time.”

Bryant spent a month in Las Vegas prior to the workouts training with professionals at a gym called Impact. It was there where he connected with current NBA stars such as Demarcus Cousins and Myles Turner.

“Everything is so much faster, and every decision happens so much quicker,” Bryant said of the difference in preparing for the NBA. “Everyone was the top guy at their school, so they’re all very smart basketball players.”

The focus of Bryant’s pre-draft preparation has been getting in shape, hitting shots and competing at every moment.

“Other than that, they’ve seen you play, they know what you can do,” Bryant said of the scouts who watched him at workouts and Pro Day at Impact.

Bryant said he has learned from BYU alumni before him that the opportunity to play professionally and in the NBA comes once in a lifetime, so he is embracing every opportunity and trying to make the most of the experience.

Lee Cummard, an assistant with the BYU basketball team, was in Bryant’s shoes prior to the NBA draft in 2009.

Despite winning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and being named to the All-Conference first team twice, Cummard went undrafted and ended up playing overseas for his six-year professional career.

“Everybody wants to play in the NBA; it’s always a dream,” Cummard said. “(But) the European experience is unbelievable too.”

Cummard and his family embraced the European culture and way of life, especially during their four years in Belgium, a country that became a second home to them. His wife begs him every day to return and play professionally in Europe again.

“The sooner you can embrace the way they do things over there, the more you can enjoy it,” Cummard said.

Even though the NBA didn’t work out for Cummard, he said the system has improved a lot in recent years in allowing players like BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth to find success.

The NBA G-League now serves as a true farm system for the highest level, whereas it was previously much more disorganized and not well-run, according to Cummard.

Collinsworth played for the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League right after he left BYU and then played for their G-League team for two seasons. His impressive play with the lower-level squad caught the eyes of the upper-level coaches and management, leading to a three-year NBA contract for the rookie.

“When (Collinsworth) made his first three, I said I would have traded my whole pro career for that experience,” Cummard said. “To be on an NBA team, to hit a three in an NBA game.”

Despite the intense competition to make it into the NBA and onto a roster, Bryant said several players have offered him advice, something he hopes to pay forward with the younger generation.

“I’ll never be a guy that’s too cool to help kids or answer their questions,” Bryant said. “They’re chasing their dreams, and that’s what I’m doing.”

It requires courage on the part of the student to ask for advice and humility on the part of the teacher to help, according to Bryant. He said it makes him feel good whenever he offers advice and life experience to kids following in his footsteps.

“I don’t know where I’m going to be, but I need to make some connection when I get there,” Bryant said of his desire to reach out and communicate with others. “(I’m) just trying to make everyone feel like they’re a part of our family and journey.”

Since graduation, Bryant has been able to expand his YouTube channel EB&J that he runs with his wife. Through the channel and other social media, he hopes to continue to inspire kids and give them tips and advice on how to get better in basketball or whatever dream they are trying to achieve.

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