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Bryant basketball rises behind its long-tenured coach

Tim O’Shea talks building a Div. I program and 2017-18 excitement.

NCAA Basketball: Bryant at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Many college basketball programs around the country have traditions, many of which date back to the mid to late 1900’s. Bryant may not have old traditions yet, but is building a legacy of its own.

Located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, Bryant began its transition from Div. II to Div. I during the 2008-09 season. Through its transition there have been plenty of changes, but one variable that has remained stable has been head coach Tim O’Shea.

O’Shea had a successful seven years run at Ohio before arriving at Bryant, and talked about why he took the job in a recent interview.

“Bryant was a very ideal job for me because I wanted to move my family back to the New England area,” he said. “I wanted my daughter to be able to live close to her family, and I wanted to prioritize my family over everything and Rhode Island has the whole package. Bryant is also a fantastic academic institution to work for.”

Although O’Shea was excited to take the Bryant job, the transition presented many challenges. Through the programs first four Div. I years, it had a combined record of 20-99. In 2012-13, its fifth year and first with NCAA Tournament eligibility, Bryant took a step forward. The team finished with a winning record (19-12) for the first time at the Div. I level and qualified for the CBI.

O’Shea elaborated on these struggles and what it meant to have success during that 2012-13 season.

“During our transition period from Div. II to Div. I, we had to play four seasons without being eligible for any post season play,” he said. “Right there in itself that makes it very challenging to attract recruits. We did a good job of finding under the radar talent, and landed some great transfers.”

One of those talented, under-the-radar players is current Bulldog sophomore Adam Grant, who talked about why he chose the young program.

“First off, Bryant has a great business program and that is my plan for when basketball is over,” Grant said. “Secondly, the coaching staff was so genuine during the recruiting process and I could tell they really had my best interest.”

Grant had a very strong freshman season (13.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG) as he earned All-NEC third team honors. He credits his immediate success to the fact that he was able to adjust to the speed of the college game quickly, which was his biggest challenge at first.

Along with having great numbers Adam Grant had some exciting moments, including tying the school for three-pointers in a game (9) on Jan. 14 against Sacred Heart. Although he’s proud of his freshman year, Grant knows he’s not done improving, and worked on getting better in the offseason.

“Teams scout very well in this league, so I had to change somethings up this off season and work on my counter moves with the ball,” he said.

Entering the 2017-18 season, the Bulldogs as a team will need to get better while replacing big production. They lost the NEC’s leading scorer in Nisre Zouzoua and a key front court player Marcel Pettway as both players transferred to Nevada. Losing two key cogs from the starting lineup will likely lead to some growing pains, but O’Shea is still excited about his team’s chances.

“Opportunity has a lot to do with production. You look at a returning guy we have in Sebastian Townes who was at the top of the league in production per minute. Bosko Kostur will see even more production opportunity in the front court, and I think Adam Grant can potentially fill into that 20 point per game role Nisre played,” he said. “Guys score 20 points not just off of their own ability, but it is also a product of their teammates around them giving them opportunities to score and Adam has teammates which can do that.”

Bryant also has an intriguing freshman addition in former Maryland All-American Jake Laymen’s brother, Ryan Laymen. O’Shea talked Laymen’s pedigree and talent.

“Ryan is very athletic like his brother and he can shot the ball well, the older guys on the team have confidence in him,” he said.

The tenth-year coach is also excited to redshirt freshman Brendon Carol, who he says has great athletic ability and is working on developing his skill set. He also said senior Hunter Ware and sophomore Tanner Johnson have made improvements over the offseason.

O’Shea also spent some time talking about scheduling in the NEC, and a non-conference schedule that includes Georgia, NC State, Rutgers, Yale, Memphis and Louisville.

“Our non-conference schedule is super challenging, but it allows our players to have great national exposure and also to make money as a school through money games, and we can also see where we are at,” he said. “Some NEC coaches have scheduled a few non-Div. I home opponents home to get some wins, because scheduling non-conference can be such a challenge.”

The Bulldogs will be without a key player in Townes due to an appendicitis when the season tips of at Georgia on Friday but overall, because of players like Grant, O’Shea is excited for 2017-18.

“I really like the players on my team as people, our chemistry as a team is great and that is what is most important to have in the NEC along with experience, which we also have.”