Nov 29, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - Saluki sophomore forward Antonio Bryer has set the record straight regarding his freshman year at Southern Illinois.
Contrary to rumors, he never asked to redshirt, he never demanded to play, and the option of redshirting was actually never even discussed between he and the coaching staff.
It may seem like water under the bridge at this point, but the 6-foot-6 Bryer only played in 12 games, logging 68 minutes of court time. He appeared in just four Missouri Valley Conference contests. Would a redshirt year have been to his benefit, especially in light of the hernia he suffered in the second week of practice?
Then again, Bryer was not your ordinary freshman when he came to SIU in the summer of 2011. He had already played one season of prep school ball at Fishburne Military Academy. He turns 21 next month, so he's older and more seasoned than your typical underclassman.
Bryer is ambivalent about the subject of redshirting, choosing instead to focus on the present.
One thing Bryer wants Saluki fans to know is that they have not yet seen the best he has to offer. The injury, in particular, slowed him down early in his rookie campaign.
"I had come off my surgery a couple of weeks before my first game against Saint Louis last year," said Bryer. "I came back too early and it hurt to move and play defense. I just tried to suck it up and play."
Antonio Bryer has more than tripled his point total over last season.
On the whole, Bryer's production was meager last season. He scored six points, grabbed 10 rebounds and generally played single-digit minutes, if he even played at all.
With a new coaching staff, he knew he'd have to get better to have a chance to impact this year's team. Bryer saw a glimmer of hope when fellow freshmen bigs Treg Setty and Harry Whitt transferred after the season, leaving the door open for him to pick up their minutes.
"I haven't let last year affect me," he said. "Coach (Barry) Hinson and the coaching staff showed confidence in me and I took advantage of it."
He admits being surprised to see his name in the starting lineup in the season opener at New Orleans, a game in which he made all four shots and scored eight points.
"I expected Davante (Drinkard) to start, but's it's really not a big deal who starts," he said. "I just want to be in the rotation and get some playing time under my belt. It gave me a big confidence boost. You never know what you can do until you do it the first time in a Division I game."
Bryer's season hit a speed bump at SIUE last week when he was ejected for a flagrant foul, causing him to sit out the Saint Louis game. Yet he returned last night in the dramatic win over Fresno State and had a key second-half tip-in that helped stem a rally by the Bulldogs.
After being a front-court dominated team last year, the Salukis have only two players who stand 6-foot-6 or taller (Bryer and Drinkard). Bryer disagrees with anyone who thinks SIU's front court is a weak link, however, despite the loss of leading scorer Mamadou Seck, plus Setty and Whitt.
"Players don't stay the same," Bryer said. "We don't sit around doing nothing. We all develop. Dantiel's better, I'm better, everyone's better."