Bryant Stith is Virginia basketball royalty. He’s the Cavaliers’ career scoring leader and No. 4 rebounder, a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, and the program’s highest NBA draft pick in the last 20 years.
So when Stith says one of the players he coaches at Brunswick High School has the potential to break his records, you pay attention.
When that player just happens to be Stith’s youngest son, and when he’s recently committed to the Cavaliers as a sophomore, you really pay attention.
B.J. Stith, a 6-foot-4 guard, pledged Saturday during a meeting with Virginia coach Tony Bennett prior to the Cavaliers’ home football game against William and Mary.
“He’s a special player,” Bryant said Labor Day afternoon. “You’re talking a 6-4 combo guard. His ball skills are just through the roof. Very good instincts, a very good (shooting) stroke. His game is just going to expand as he gets stronger, and that’s something that’s going to happen naturally. …
“You just pray he can play the next 10 to 12 years without any significant injuries so he has a chance to really leave his mark on the game. …
“The one attribute that sets him apart from so many kids his age is his work ethic and attitude. He works so hard to improve. He’s never satisfied. … With those ingredients, he really has a chance to make his own mark and create his own identity. It’s just up to him.”
As was the decision to commit early. Schools such as Virginia Tech and Ohio State began courting B.J. after a summer in which he played for Richmond-based Team Loaded, but no one had a chance after Virginia offered.
“He asked me to give him three reasons why he shouldn’t commit early,” Bryant said. “I thought I did a pretty good job challenging him, but it wasn’t good enough for him. …
“Both boys have been following U.Va. since they were toddlers because every time I went to a game I had them with me.”
Yes, there’s another son.
Brandan, a 6-foot-6 forward, is a year older than B.J., and last season they helped Brunswick to the Division 3 state championship, Bryant's first as coach after four consecutive losses in the final.
“Brandan is a chip off the old block,” said Bryant, who led Brunswick to state titles as a player in 1987 and '88. “He plays just like I did when I was in high school. Just aggressive, attacks the basket. Athletic, rebounds, blocks shots. B.J., on the other hand, is more skilled than either one of us were at the same age.”
Both sons excelled at football as middle-schoolers, and Brandan was the first to dedicate himself solely to basketball. Brandan began playing summer ball with the Raleigh-based Garner Road Bulldogs, and soon the letters from colleges arrived.
“That,” Bryant said with a laugh, “immediately got B.J.’s attention.”
Sibling competition took over, and B.J., too, gave up football to focus on basketball. All of which prompts an obvious question.
Will Brandan join B.J. at Virginia?
“His situation is a little more complex,” Bryant said.
Here’s why: Brandan will graduate from Brunswick in 2013, but because of roster make-up and scholarship limits, Virginia has asked Brandan to attend prep school for a year before enrolling with his brother in 2014.
Meanwhile, programs such as Virginia Tech, George Washington, Xavier, Clemson, Ohio, Tennessee, DePaul and South Carolina are showing interest in Brandan for 2013.
“He’s taking the time to do the research to make the best decision for him,” Bryant said. “He has a bunch of options and a lot of homework to do.”
Bryant said both sons are outstanding in the classroom as well. He recited their grade-point averages – 4.08 for B.J., 3.44 for Brandan – with pride and certainty.
No surprise there. I’ve known Bryant since the 1980s, when he played summer ball on the Peninsula for Boo Williams. He was the consummate student-athlete and chose Virginia over Duke.
And speaking of Boo, how is it that Brandan and B.J. aren’t playing in his renowned summer program?
“I explained to Boo, as much as you’ve done for me, I’d love for my boys to play for your organization, but they’re not ready,” Bryant said. “When I send Brandan and B.J. to you, I want them to feel like they can stand on their own two feet and not feel like you owe me anything by giving them playing time.
“I want them to earn it, and I think they’re in a position to do that now. Hopefully we can link up in the near future.”
So Brandan and B.J. could well follow their dad’s career path: Brunswick High, Boo Williams, U.Va.
“I told them you make sure you attend whatever school for the right reasons,” Bryant said. “What we talked about with the University of Virginia is making sure that’s the place you go to school because they want to go there, not because their father went there.
“I (listed) for them the advantages and disadvantages of attending the university and following in my footsteps, and with that comes expectations and with expectations come pressure. I told them as long as you understand that and can keep those things in perspective, then Virginia will be a great place for you to attend school, both academically and athletically.
“I challenged them to be good students. I challenged them to represent themselves in a manner that’s pleasing to the man upstairs and our family.”
Bryant, the 13th pick of the 1992 draft by the Denver Nuggets, played 10 professional seasons. After he retired, he and his wife, Barbara, returned to Brunswick County to raise their children.
The couple also has two daughters. Bria is 13, Brooke 12, and yes they are athletes.
The girls specialize in basketball and track, and they are very close to their brothers.
“They’re going to have some decisions to make in a few years as well,” Bryant said. “They love one another and are very close, and I would not be surprised to see (all four of) them attend the same institution.”
Four legacies? That just might eclipse the 2,516 points Stith scored.
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