Michael Bryant hadn’t suited up for a basketball game over the last two seasons since he became a part of the Grand Ledge varsity boys basketball program as a team manager.
But Bryant figured Friday he would bring his basketball shoes just in case.
The Grand Ledge senior who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child and is cognitively impaired has been hoping the last two seasons for an opportunity to get on the court.
“I dreamed about going on the court and shooting 3-pointers,” Bryant said.
It finally happened Friday.
And it turned out to be a night to remember.
Grand Ledge coach Scott Lewis informed his team of his plans to dress Bryant for Friday’s home regular-season finale against rival Holt. And he then challenged them to gain control of the game so Bryant would have an opportunity to get on the court in the final minutes.
Grand Ledge took care of its business and had control of the game in the closing minutes. Once Bryant got in the game, Holt coach Darren Zwick and his players made sure Bryant would have a chance to shoot.
Bryant made two of his three 3-point attempts in the game’s late stages as the rival schools came together for the special moment.
“(Our players) were super motivated and got after it the whole game,” Lewis said. Coach Zwick – awesome guy. I can’t say enough about him. After that game, I was like it’s hard for us to be rivals with Holt after that. With two minutes to go he called the timeout and told his guys kind of about the situation. He pulled the plug on the game.
“Michael came in and (Zwick’s) guys let him shoot a 3. He missed the first one and made the second one. I don’t know who was cheering more – Holt’s bench and Holt’s coaches, or our bench or the crowd. It was amazing, man. It was the whole community, rather it be Holt, rather it be Grand Ledge – everyone in the gym was cheering for the kid. Then he came down and hit another one and banked it in. It was a really cool moment.”
Martha Bryant – Michael’s mother – appreciated the moment for her son, who has defied the odds throughout his life. He almost died when he was born and wasn’t supposed to be able to walk or talk..
“My uterus ruptured and he was in the NICU for three weeks,” Martha said. “We thought he’d be in a wheelchair and probably wouldn’t be able to walk or talk. To see him doing what he’s doing – learning is what’s the hardest thing for him with the part of his brain that’s affected. Physically, it hasn’t really affected him as much.
“Learning is hard and he has overcome a lot of challenges, and despite all of that he is so driven and just hard working. He makes up for his challenges with his hard work and his great attitude.”
While there have been challenges, there’s always been a love of basketball for Bryant. He played the sport starting in middle school and through his sophomore year while attending the Potterville school system. But when Bryant was forced to switch to Grand Ledge schools because the classes he needed weren’t offered at Potterville, Martha was worried that basketball might no longer be in the cards.
That’s when Lewis and his program presented the opportunity for Bryant to be a student manager. And Martha has been thankful for how accepting the program has been of her son and helped him fit in.
Lewis and his players have appreciated all the behind the scenes work Bryant has put in and felt it was fitting he have a shining moment on senior day.
“I think one of the great things about us is is our guys were beside themselves,” Lewis said. “You would have thought we hit the game-winning shot for the state championship when the second shot went in. They erupted and I had to hold them off from rushing the court. Everybody was just super excited and happy for him because he’s worked hard the last two years. Hard work pays off in different ways and for him that was a moment he’ll probably – I know I will and our guys will and the community will probably remember for a long time.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.