For the time being, the Huntington Prep player getting the most attention from UK’s coaching staff is Montaque Gill-Caesar, who could reclassify to 2014 and help fill out the Cats’ current recruiting class.
Once that recruitment is settled, the focus will turn to junior power forward Thomas Bryant.
Bryant — in his first season at Huntington Prep — was arguably the team’s most impressive player during last weekend’s two-game swing through Kentucky. He scored a team-high 16 points in Saturday’s victory in Hazard, then helped the Express get out to a fast start Sunday in Frankfort. In the latter game, he scored seven points — going 5-for-5 on free throws — and drew four fouls in the first 3 minutes of the contest. He finished with 12 points despite playing only a few minutes due to the lopsided score.
Bryant — a 6-foot-10 prospect — came to Huntington this year from his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
“I knew this would be a perfect opportunity for me to expand my game,” Bryant told the Herald-Leader on Sunday. “Rochester is great, but I felt like I needed to be in better competition and learn more from my coaches to help me in my future.”
Scout.com ranks Bryant as the No. 13 prospect in the Class of 2015 and the No. 33 overall player across all classes. He’s a hard-worker in the paint, a dominating rebounder and a player who can create his own scoring opportunities on the block. With so many veteran scorers around him, he hasn’t been relied on to be an offensive threat.
That’s a change — but a welcome one — from past seasons.
“It’s something you have to get used to,” he said. “That’s what I did during our practices and our open gyms. Putting this all together is great. We have a great team around us, and we build more and more chemistry every day.”
Bryant got a little taste of playing with other talented players over the summer, when he was a member of Team USA’s gold-medal squad at the FIBA Americas junior tournament in Uruguay.
That team included five-star players like Malik Newman, Diamond Stone, Harry Giles and Ivan Rabb. Bryant didn’t start any of the five games, but he averaged 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and had a tournament record 18 blocked shots in 15.6 minutes per game off the bench.
Bryant described himself as “great intensity guy.” Over the weekend, he often went to the floor for loose balls and outfought opponents on the boards.
“We knew how good he was coming in,” said Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford. “He’s an energy guy. He’s a big that you don’t have to run anything for because he’s just going to go get it. He’s just a guy that you don’t have to do a whole lot for because his energy level is just so much higher than everybody else’s.
“You can’t put a measure on it, honestly. He’s just one of those guys that — if you’re not playing hard around him — you stand out as such. He brings the energy level up every day.”
UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua watched Bryant play Saturday night, and the top prospect said he’s been in contact with UK’s assistants, though he has yet to speak to Coach John Calipari.
Bryant mentioned several schools already recruiting him, including most of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and all of the Big East.
Syracuse is widely viewed as the early frontrunner in Bryant’s recruitment. He grew up a little more than an hour from that campus and said the Orange were the team he used to always watch growing up.
Bryant acknowledged that Syracuse is a school he’ll consider, but he made it clear that he doesn’t have any favorites.
“Nobody’s top of the list yet,” he said. “I’m keeping my options open.”