April 21, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Former Northern Illinois men's basketball point guard Jay Bryant (1976-80), still the most decorated assist-man in program history, has been selected for induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame. He will be enshrined this Saturday, becoming the 22nd former Huskie player to join the club.
Bryant holds the school record for career (367) and single-season (163 in 1979-80) assists. In his final campaign as a Huskie (1979-80), Bryant was named honorable mention All-Mid-American Conference, finishing third in the MAC in assists. He also scored 460 career points.
"It's quite an honor to be inducted, because there are a lot of great people that are already members of the IBCA Hall of Fame," said Bryant. "What's special for me is that I am being inducted with my brother (John), and my parents are already members of the (IBCA) Hall of Fame as `Friends of Basketball.' It will be neat to share the entire experience with my family. One thing about our family was that if we didn't beat you on the court, we probably out-worked you. I'm proud of that."
Playing for Hall of Fame coach John McGougal, Bryant led NIU in assists three times in four years. He distributed the ball to NIU All-Century picks, NBA draftees, First-Team All-MAC performers, and NIU Hall of Famers Matt Hicks (MAC Player of the Year in 1976-77), Paul Dawkins (MAC Player of the Year in 1978-79) and Allen Rayhorn (MAC Postseason Tournament MVP in 1982). Following his NIU career, Bryant served one season as a volunteer assistant coach with the Huskies.
Nicknamed "Jaybird," the 6-foot-5 guard played for McDougal two years at Aurora West High School before following him to NIU. McDougal called Bryant "our glue" after he graduated from Northern Illinois in December, 1980. As an Aurora West senior, Bryant won All-State honors and averaged 11.7 points per game on the 30-3 Blackhawk team that placed second in the 1976 Class AA state tournament.
"Those (1976-80) were great years," Bryant said. "When I first arrived at NIU, you would be lucky to see between 500 and 1,000 people in the stands at Chick Evans Field House. Once we got that thing going, that field house was rocking and loud every night. You knew we were doing something right, and the fans appreciated that.
"My senior year was especially memorable. We won 16 games, and made a nice run in the MAC Tournament. That year is what I remember the most about being the point guard, and running the show for a Division I team."
As a head coach, Bryant has served stints at Waubonsee Community College (Sugar Grove, Ill.), Aurora Marmion Military Academy, Hononegah High School (Rockton, Ill.), Rockford Guilford High School (Rockford, Ill.) and his current post at Beloit Memorial (Wis.) High School, where he led the Purple Knights to the final eight round of the state tournament this past season.
Bryant was the 1991-92 Skyway Conference Coach of the Year, the 1994-95 Northern Illinois Conference 9 Coach of the Year and the Beloit Daily News Coach of the Year both this past season, and in the 1992-93 campaign.
Bryant also served on Ball State's men's basketball coaching staff under former mentor Tim Buckley for four years, beginning in 2002-03. Buckley played for Jay at WCC.
Bryant will be joined in Saturday's IBCA Hall of Fame inductions by his brother, John, who played college basketball at Marquette. Jay and John's parents, his mother Maureen and late father Fred, are also members of the IBCA Hall of Fame, in the "Friends of Basketball" distinction.