USC Men's Basketball

‘More than a dunker.’ Why Keyshawn Bryant is shooting his way through the offseason

Asked to guess a number, T.J. Moss went high. He had just shared the court with Keyshawn Bryant. He had a sense of how often his South Carolina teammate was looking to score.

“I want to say about about 22,” Moss said.

Higher.

“Oh,” Moss responded with wide eyes, “he took 30 again?”

Bryant finished the South Carolina Pro-Am second to only Jermaine Couisnard in points per game. The rising sophomore went for more 33 a night against professional and college competition. It was an impressive display of athleticism as Bryant, after a highlight-filled freshman season, kept with his signature attacks of the rim.

But Bryant every now and then would mix in a jumper. Several jumpers.

Over one two-game stretch of the Pro-Am he attempted 64 shots, including 25 3-pointers (seven makes). His final field goal percentage: 48.4

There was a method to all of this. Bryant knows where he needs to improve most — and he’s been working on it all offseason.

“That’s what I really tried to come in and show a little bit,” Bryant said last week, “that I’ve been working on my 3- ball shooting and my mid-range game. I want to expand, so people look at me more than just a dunker.”

As a dunker, Bryant has few rivals any time he steps on the court. That’s been his shtick since he first threw down as a sixth grader in Florida. It’s part of why Russell Westbrook took interest in Bryant on the recruiting trail. Bryant’s freakish ability to soar helped him average nine points and four rebounds as a rookie in the SEC.

Bryant isn’t trying to become Frank Booker in 2019-20, but he’s at least trying to establish himself as a perimeter threat. The 6-foot-6 wing made six of 29 3s last year and shot 57 percent from the free throw line.

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“He’s been working on it a lot,” said sophomore guard A.J. Lawson. “I remember when I was gone at Team Canada, he was calling me on FaceTime and saying, ‘I can shoot now.’ So he’s been working on it, I know that. And he’s been hungry all year, so I know he’ll probably expand his game.

“And I feel like Coach will let him do that, too.”

USC coach Frank Martin used Bryant as the primary wing or “3” player last year after Justin Minaya was lost for injury. Minaya’s back, giving Martin options at the forward spots. One could be to move Bryant as as “stretch 4” and pair him with Minaya. It’d be a small lineup, sure, but it’s way to get the best five Gamecocks on the floor.

“I feel comfortable in anything they need me to do,” Bryant said.

An improved jumper is near the top of that list.

“I mean, when I go in the gym, I see (Bryant) on the gun every day — just working on his jump shot, working on dribble pull-ups, working with the coaches,” said sophomore forward Alanzo Frink. “I feel like he’s getting more comfortable shooting it, so I feel like in games he can really help with 3s.”

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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