High school basketball: Bryant scores 15 for West all-stars

Published 3:19 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Kyla Bryan, all-star game.


By Mike London

GREENSBORO — The East-West All-Star Games may no longer be the mecca of summer sports, but for Salisbury graduate Kyla Bryant it was important to be chosen for the game and to perform well in the game.

It was on her bucket list, and she made the most of the experience, Bryant’s West team lost 74-68, but she made four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 15 points.

“The East-West was always a goal of mine, and a goal that I set for myself early,” Bryant said. “I grew up watching Salisbury High players in the game, and I understood what an honor it would be for me to play in the game.”

Bryant’s background isn’t the standard one. Her mother, former Catawba standout Lakai Brice, was also her head coach at Salisbury High. They had gone to Greensboro to watch three Rowan County girls, including Salisbury grad Bryanna Troutman, play in the 2019 East-West Game before Troutman headed to Wingate for a stellar college career.

Bryant put together one of the strongest four-year varsity careers in Rowan County girls basketball history, with 1,809 career points, two state championships, three county player of the year awards and a room full of all-this and all-that plaques from the conference, the county, the district and the state.

Salisbury not only won two 2A state championships with Bryant, the Hornets weren’t all that far from getting four. They lost in the regional finals her freshman year. They lost in the closing seconds to eventual state champ Shelby her sophomore year.

Despite all those on-court achievements, her sunny disposition and flawless academics, Bryant wasn’t recruited by a ton of Division I schools. None of them questioned her heart or her head, but she stands 5-foot-8 and isn’t blazing fast, so there were always going to be doubters that she could succeed at a high level.

North Carolina Central had no doubts whatsoever and formed a happy partnership with Bryant. The Eagles were thrilled to get her. She was thrilled to be going to one of the flagship HBCU schools in the country to study nursing and to play D-I basketball.

The East-West All-Star Game is a stepping stone between high school and college. Everyone who is invited to play has either the size, the quickness, the skills or the shot to be successful in college basketball.

For Bryant, the game was not only a chance to show she belonged with the state’s best, but a chance to show she could stand out even in elite company.

“Lots of girls in the game signed with Division I schools and there were great players on both teams,” Bryant said. “My role with my West team was more of a shooting role than what I had in high school, but the game plan was to have two 3-point shooters on the floor at all times.”

Bryant, who received an academic award at the all-star banquet, enjoyed all her new teammates and worked well with them.

Gracyn Hall, headed to Emory & Henry, was a post scorer for Randleman High but was mostly a screener for the shooters in the all-star game. Her picks shook Bryant loose a few times for 3-point looks

Bryant felt the closest bond to Shelby’s Ally Hollifield because Shelby was Salisbury’s toughest rival during Bryant’s high school days. Salisbury and Shelby played three incredible games in three years, with Shelby winning in Salisbury’s gym (2021) and the Hornets beating Shelby at Shelby (2023) and in a neutral site regional final at Grimsley High in Greensboro (2022). All three went down to the end. All three could have gone either way.

So there was some irony in Bryant and Hollifield returning to Greensboro for an all-star game — as teammates.

“We talked about all of it because at Salisbury we always knew that if you were going to win state, you had to go through Shelby,” Bryant said. “And Shelby always knew if they were going to win state they were going to have to get through Salisbury. We were on the court together a lot. I think my favorite moment in the all-star game was when I made a 3-pointer, and I kind of look over at her and she nodded and smiled at me. There’s respect between us.”

Hollifield, who played five different sports for Shelby as a senior, was High School OT’s Female Athlete of the Year for the state. She was one of the more famous West all-stars and is a Memphis basketball recruit.

Bryant, who had two steals and two rebounds, got her 15 points in 20 minutes of action. Maybe she and the 5-foot-7 Hollifield, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes, should’ve played more. They made six of the West’s seven 3-pointers.

The West played one person down as Forest Hills guard Jamyah Blakeney was a late drop from the contest and wasn’t replaced.

Kylie Chavis, a UNC Wilmington recruit, was the MVP. The guard had 13 points, six rebounds and five steals and helped the East hold off a fourth-quarter charge by the West squad.

“We wanted to win, but we came up a little short in the end,” Bryant said. “But it was still fun and it was a great experience. It was all I hoped it would be.”

Bryant was supported by family, friends, former Salisbury teammates and some new ones from N.C. Central.