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Offseason workout plan: Elijah Bryant

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Elijah Bryant is a thrilling player; what can he do to build on a good sophomore campaign?

NCAA Basketball: Pacific at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Finals are over and summer break has begun for BYU students. As such, now is the time when BYU basketball players have an opportunity to improve their hoop abilities.

Elijah Bryant’s 1st season at BYU saw him battle injuries while his personal performance was inconsistent. There was enough positive to be really compelling and enticing while having a few holes in his game. Every player has ways they can improve — let’s take a look at the areas Elijah Bryant is likely looking at this summer.

Elijah Bryant statistical profile

Season Minutes Played PER FG/FGA FG% 3P/3PA 3P% FT/FTA FT% eFG% REB AST AST% STL USG% PTS Offensive PPP Defensive PPP
Season Minutes Played PER FG/FGA FG% 3P/3PA 3P% FT/FTA FT% eFG% REB AST AST% STL USG% PTS Offensive PPP Defensive PPP
Freshman at Elon 25.5 18.5 4.5/11.7 .382 1.3/3.8 .349 3.9/5.2 .751 .439 4.2 2.7 24.7 1.3 34.6 14.2 0.789 0.902
Sophomore at BYU 24.7 17.7 3.6/8.5 .426 1.1/3.9 .278 3.4/4.3 .796 .490 3.6 2.2 16.6 0.9 22.7 11.7 0.964 0.968

Health

The most important element of Elijah Bryant’s summer workouts is to get healthy and strengthen his body to prevent further injuries. Bryant had a knee injury that was a problem in the pre-season, during the season, and prevented him from playing in the post-season. As a result, Bryant played in only 23 of BYU’s 34 games.

The top priority for Bryant is to get a full offseason with rehabilitation efforts on his knee.

Defense

For me, the most glaring item on Elijah Bryant’s stats profile above is his defensive PPP (points per possession). In both season’s of Bryant’s college career, Elijah has finished the season surrendering more points on a defensive possession where he is relied upon to contest than he scored when he attacked offensively. That’s not good.

Think about it this way — on the road against the Portland Pilots, Elijah Bryant exploded for 39 points. He did this while using 27 offensive possessions. That’s good. However, given that’s Bryant’s defensive PPP is higher than his offensive PPP, there was also a stretch where Elijah Bryant defended 27 possessions and surrendered 40 points.

Of the 23 games that Bryant played in his sophomore season, he gave up more points defensively on average than he scored in 10 of them.

Of the major minutes players, Elijah is the player that Dave Rose and his staff have to hide the most defensively. Bryant had the team’s worst defensive PPP. As WCC teams became more familiar with Bryant, they game planned to go at Bryant more frequently. That trend will continue next season unless Bryant proves himself on the defensive end of the floor during non-conference play.

Beyond that, BYU has Emery and Haws guarding on the perimeter. Emery is too undersized to handle anything more than a 1 or 2 guard. Haws, too, is most adept at handling a point or shooting guard given his build. Neither have the size or strength to handle opposing teams wings at the 3. The hope prior to last season was that Bryant was a solution defensively guarding wings. Unfortunately, it appears that the Cougars are still lacking that guy.

Of course, a factor his poor defense was his knee injury. However, he wasn’t very good defensively when he was healthy at Elon College either.

This offseason, Elijah Bryant needs to decide to become a 2-way player. Otherwise, it might be most prudent for BYU’s coaching staff to use Bryant as a 6th man Jamal Crawford type. Bring him in against 2nd units and let him cook offensively. If he is hot on the night, then keep him in.

3-Point Shooting

Elijah Bryant is a skilled offensive player. Last season, Bryant was better than 75% of all players in the college game in the following situations: pick & roll ball handler, catch and shoot, spot up, cutting to the hoop, shooting following a hand off. That’s quite an arsenal he has at his disposal.

Bryant wasn’t particularly good in transition or in isolation opportunities.

While his production in transition needs to improve if he’s going to be an consistent and effective point guard of a Dave Rose offense. The area of his offensive game that needs the most help is his 3-point shooting.

Bryant took just under 4 3-pointers a contest last season and only made 27.8% of them. 27.8% is lower than my score on Kearl’s Econ 110 Final the first time around — and that’s sayin’ something.

It was only 3 years ago that most every BYU fan slammed Matt Carlino for taking 5 treys a game while shooting only 33.9%. Somehow, Bryant escaped fans noticing his 3-point shooting woes, but what he did last season was uninspiring. Among volume 3-point shooters (90 3FGAs or more in a season), Elijah Bryant had the worst 3-point shooting percentage by a BYU player in 20 years — narrowly edging out Lance Archibald’s 27% effort in 96-97.

Bryant must improve his outside shooting to help space the floor. If this doesn’t get better, teams will cheat off of him to double the post, go under screens, and take away more opportunities for Bryant to do his best offensive skill — attacking and creating at the rim.

Elijah is an exciting player with a couple more seasons of eligibility. Historically at BYU, the offseason between sophomore and junior year is where the biggest leap in basketball ability and development takes place. If Bryant can improve his outside shooting, his defensive skill, and sure up his health and knee fitness, he’s certain to give BYU greater consistency. That’s huge. Consistency is essential for BYU to avoid losses to lesser WCC opponents, which have yielded NIT post-seasons.