With his time as the Ocoee basketball student manager now over, Bryant looks back on his stint with the team with fondness.
Every basketball season, there are some moments that truly stand out among the others.
Throughout the year, student team manager Gavin Bryant had sat on the bench for the Ocoee varsity basketball team — helping his guys in any way that he could. But tonight — Jan. 31 — was different. Tonight was his moment of high-school glory.
All his hard work and dedication to the team had not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, who made Bryant’s dream of playing come true in a matchup with East River.
“I missed twice, and then I made the third one,” Bryant said. “I was nervous (with) all the people staring at me, but I blocked everything out. The only thing I remember is my team saying, ‘Yay Gavin!’”
Although the Knights’ season came to an end in the regional quarterfinal against Melbourne last week, that magical moment from the game against East River is the peak of his short, but fun, stint with the team that started just after Thanksgiving.
Bryant, whose love of basketball is well known, thanks in part to his time playing the game in the Special Olympics, approached assistant coach Andy Rochon about the possibility of joining the team as a manager.
“I know Gavin’s passion for basketball, because I’ve seen him play with his team and things like that,” Rochon said. “We just wanted to make him a part of this team and see if he would want to do it. He was the one to tell us yes, so he kind of calls a few shots around here.”
Going into his first week as the team’s manager was nothing with which Bryant wasn’t familiar. He took over doing minor, yet important, jobs that would keep him busy during practices and games. Keeping up with the team’s uniforms, keeping them hydrated and offering up support were just a few of Bryant’s duties.
Although the job in general was a simple one that brought a lot of joy into Bryant’s life, there was one thing that took some time to get use to: folding clothes.
“I have to carry the suits they wear — I don’t wash them, the head manager does that — and I fold them and put them in the container that breaks,” Bryant said. “I never knew how to fold shirts — we always hanged them up — so I’m kind of new at folding shirts.”
As the practices and games went on, Bryant continued to learn and pick up new managing skills while also learning more about the inner workings of basketball.
In that aspect of developing an understanding of how teams operate, Bryant learned one valuable lesson he said every new student manager should know.
“Don’t get onto coach’s bad side,” Bryant said with a laugh. “He (head coach John Siers) yelled at me once, and that was the only time — (he) scared the crap out of me.”
Although the season is over for the Knights’ basketball team, the things Bryant learned will still be getting a lot of use after he departs from Ocoee, and he still has the Special Olympics to look forward to later this year.
There, on the hardwood for his team, Bryant will look to take advantage of the on-the-court skills he picked up during the Knights’ practices. The hope is he can become the next big shooter on his Special Olympics team.
“I missed twice, and then I made the third one. I was nervous (with) all the people staring at me, but I blocked everything out. The only thing I remember is my team saying, ‘Yay Gavin!’”
— Gavin Bryant
“I’m a fast shooter … I can almost beat 100% of the team, except for one person — Cooper (Siers),” Bryant said. “He can always beat me.”
That competitive spirit from the bench, which he brought to help make the Knights that much more fun to watch, will be missed by his fellow teammates and coaches, Rochon said.
“It’s been good, and he’s been really supportive of our team,” Rochon said. “We hope he learned a few things to get his confidence up to possibly be a manager later on in his life.”
As of now, the 20-year-old Bryant said after he graduates this spring the goal is to enter the workforce and find a job at either the local Party City or Publix.
Eventually, the ultimate goal is to become a masseuse — Bryant helps quell his father’s pain issues through massage, which he finds relaxing — or possible go into construction work, as Bryant considers himself a hands-on kind of guy.
But no matter what the future holds, Bryant said he never will forget his time with the Ocoee basketball team.
“I will really, really miss the players, the coaches and shooting half-court shots and just having fun,” Bryant said. “I will most miss having fun.”