Oh, brothers: Elkhorn's Brysons help lead UW-Whitewater to Salem
WHITEWATER--On a backyard basketball court in Elkhorn, Drew Bryson quickly learned his role as little brother.
Four years younger and always smaller than older brother, Eric, Drew never really stood a chance.
Today, the playing field is level—they both stand 6-foot-2. And for the first time ever, Drew and Eric are on the same team, though that has failed to quash Eric's big-brother mentality.
“I'm on him big-time,” Eric admitted Tuesday.
“I'm used to it,” Drew responded.
But these are no longer the driveway days.
Eric and Drew will play at the NCAA Division III Final Four in Salem, Va., this weekend as teammates for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The Warhawks take on Illinois Wesleyan in a national semifinal game on Friday night. The national title game is Saturday.
“The excitement has really ramped up,” Eric Bryson said. “My parents are just glad because it's easy for them to be able to travel to games.
“And they think it's really cool that we're going back to the Final Four.”
Eric was named to the all-tournament team when Whitewater won the national championship in Salem in 2012.
Drew was just a junior in high school, along for the ride with his parents, Mary and Arnie.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I remember thinking they were done when they got down by 18 points. But they started coming back and it was fun to watch. I wanted to be on the court with them.”
Two years later, he is.
UW-Whitewater coach Pat Miller says Drew Bryson probably didn't get as many recruiting looks as he warranted as a high-schooler, because many teams assumed he was heading to play with his brother for the Warhawks.
The younger Bryson has settled in nicely during his rookie season, playing in 22 of 31 games off the bench.
“I thought he would (play right away) just because I liked his size and athleticism,” Miller said. “He really plays well within himself. He doesn't try to do things he can't do.
“Eric's an ultra-competitive kid; he's got an edge to him. Drew's a really nice kid; he doesn't have that visible edge when he plays. Athletically, they're different—Drew's got better size.
“Eric became more skilled as he played, and our hope is Drew will become more edgy as he plays.”
Eric has become a mainstay in the Warhawks' lineup over the past few seasons. He's started every game this year and ranks third on the team, averaging nearly 12 points per game.
But Miller says the senior's game is about more than what shows up on the stat sheet.
"In terms of recognition and postseason stuff coming out, he's a very underrated player,” he said of the Elkhorn grad, who spent one season at Winona State and then transferred to Whitewater. “He'll get a critical loose ball, plays great defense, he'll make a big cut at a big time. He's got so many intangibles that will help you win, and that's really his value to this team and why he's been on so many good teams.”
The Brysons hope the best is yet to come for this Warhawks team.
But what if they were to lock horns in the backyard today?
“We haven't played in a while,” Drew says, “so I don't know.
“He's got to work on his feet,” Eric retorts. “He's too slow right now.”
Spoken like a true older brother.