"Now, that is a very big boy right there..."
It's the one common response uttered whenever someone first watches John Bryant run the floor for Ratiopharm Ulm and that was certainly the case this past weekend at the 2013 BEKO BBL All-Star Game in Nuremberg, Germany.
When you are 6-foot-11 and 280-pound center you are hard to miss.
That's what happens when fans are focused on Bryant's large frame and signature red hair (complete with ponytail or hairband) and beard, and fail to focus on just how good his overall game really is: soft hands, passing skills, can pick-and-pop, strong back to the basket game, swift feet and even that three-point range.
This big man has big game.
On Saturday night in front of 7,400 fans, Bryant showcased the talent that made him the BBL MVP last season after averaging 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds for Ulm. By the end of the All-Star event, Bryant -- who finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds in the "International" teams' win over the "National" team, 113-95 -- had another MVP trophy to add to his mantle.
BBL MVP, All-Star Game MVP and now could another BBL MVP be in the works for Bryant?
Those are some big accomplishments in just his third season in Germany.
Not bad for a guy who was stabbed three times in college while attending Santa Clara during the 2008-09 season.
That's really where Bryant's story took shape fresh off a junior year where he was the West Coast Conference's top rebounder and shot blocker and second-leading scorer. The incident occurred at a party Bryant attended before his senior season. He was, "knifed twice on the right side of his lower back and once on the left with three inch-long scars to show for it. He needed 14 stitches to close the wounds", after Bryant and three of his friends were attacked leaving the party.
The frightening part: Bryant didn't even know he'd been stabbed.
"I didn't feel anything," Bryant said shortly after the attack. "The Adrenalin was just pumping. It was a shock."
What was truly shocking was where he took his game from there.
All Bryant (who goes by "Big Country" or "Big John" around these parts) did his last season at Santa Clara was lead the nation in double-doubles, finish second in the nation in rebounding to Blake Griffin, selected to the All-WCC team and named an honorable All-American.
After going undrafted, Bryant signed to play in the D-League with the Erie Bayhawks where he averaged 13.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 49 games, but it wasn't until the Berkeley, California native took his game world wide that Bryant really began to establish himself as one of the more premiere big men in Germany. In his first season in the BBL, Bryant averaged a double-double for Ulm (14.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game) and boosted the organization from an upstart squad to now an accomplished EuroCup team this season.
"It's our first year on the international stage, and we want to bring Ulm on the map. We want to be a German power, and every year in the EuroCup, or play in the Euro League. That was one of the reasons why I stayed," Bryant explained after the All-Star Game.
With the All-Star event behind him, the 26-year old Bryant and Ulm get back to business when they face Galatasaray in EuroCup action on Wednesday. You can call it a big game -- both teams are 1-1 in Group L play. Look for Bryant to hold down the middle and have a direct impact on both ends of the floor. In 7 EuroCup games, Bryant is averaging 15.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as Ulm's second leading scorers and top rebounder.
If Ulm and Bryant can continue to compete in EuroCup and make matters tough for three-time defending champion Brose Baskets Bamberg when the BBL postseason hits (Ulm is currently owns the second-best record in the league at 12-6), Bryant just might secure his second-straight BBL MVP trophy.
And for John Bryant, that could be a very "big" deal.