Former BYU star Elijah Bryant’s ‘One Cent’ approach has paid big dividends
Only one other player, Jim Brewer, has accomplished what Bryant has done — win an NBA title and a EuroLeague title in back-to-back seasons
Only one other player, Jim Brewer, has accomplished that feat. In 1982 and 1983, he captured championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Ford Cantu.
How does Bryant compare the two titles, won just 306 days apart?
“For me, they are super special and unique in their own right. I think the EuroLeague meant a little more because I felt like I had a bigger role in it. It’s a different format. It’s a Final Four format. Once you get there, it’s kind of like March Madness, which I never got to experience. It’s super fun,” he said. “It was more fun because we won. It probably still hasn’t set in. All of this has happened so fast. I’m going to be in year five, and if you would have told me that I’d have won an NBA championship and a EuroLeague championship before year five, I would have laughed at you. But that was my mentality, having faith in the Lord and just focusing on my journey and my process.”
Bryant, 27, also became just the 11th player in history to win both titles in a career. Among the others include Toni Kukoc and Manu Ginoboli.
While Bryant is grateful for what he’s accomplished so far during his career, he wants people to know it didn’t come easily. Most people don’t realize he’s had his share of trials along the way, too.
That’s a message he wants to share with young players.
On Aug. 4, he’s hosting his second annual Elijah Bryant Basketball Camp at the Norton Training Center in Highland.
Bryant refers to his camp as the “One Cent Academy,” where he teaches not just basketball skills, but also life skills. The “One Cent” approach is getting better gradually by working hard every day — “consistency over time” and “by small and simple means great things come to pass,” as he described it.
“The biggest thing for me is to teach them everything not just on the basketball court but more so the mental side. The stuff that helped me,” Bryant said. “That’s been my motto the whole time I’ve been out — ‘One Cent Club.’ I try to put a penny in each and every day, not just on the court but off the court — mental skills and meditation. All the stuff that people don’t really teach at basketball camps I want to teach because it’s something that’s helped me not only on the basketball court but in life as well. That’s what I’m hoping to do.”
“For me, it’s embracing the journey. You’re going to have ups and downs. But really embrace the journey and try to learn as much as possible, even through adversity. There are going to be highs and lows.” — Former BYU basketball star Elijah Bryant
Bryant left BYU in 2018 with one year of eligibility remaining after averaging 18.3 points per game, shooting 50.1% from the field, 42.6% from 3-point range and 84.6% from the free throw line as a junior.
“I remember I didn’t get drafted and I cried about it,” Bryant recalled. “For me, no matter if you’re drafted or not, everyone’s putting in all the work. You feel like you deserve to be drafted and not everyone gets that opportunity. But it didn’t happen. At first, you think, ‘Well, that’s it. I’m not going to play in the NBA.’ The initial emotions are sad. But for me, I turned it into, ‘I’m going to show everyone why they messed up.’ I wouldn’t have changed it and had it any other way than the way I had it.”
He ended up playing for Hapoel Eilat in Israel for one season before signing with Maccabi Tel Aviv, all while continuing to harbor dreams of playing in the NBA.
While with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the pandemic hit and Bryant was stuck in a hotel and an apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel, while his wife, Jenelle was in Utah, pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Eventually, Bryant was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the NBA title last season. Not long after that, he was waived by the Bucks.
“I had a few offers on the table,” Bryant said.
He joined Anadolu Efes in Turkey.
“That was the best situation for me and my family,” he said. “It was a Friday when I got the offer and by Monday I was playing a game in Turkey.”
And with Anadolu Efes, Bryant won another championship. The Turkish team claimed back-to-back EuroLeague titles, defeating Real Madrid.
“For me, it’s been more of a testament to my motto, ‘One Cent Club.’ It’s being able to battle through adversity. It’s also being able to sacrifice. Being on a team, you have to put your pride and your ego aside,” he said. “When I was at Milwaukee I knew I wasn’t going to go there and be ‘the guy.’ You have to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. It takes some luck, too. I know that’s part of the formula. It’s being able to battle through adversity and being able to sacrifice.”
Since leaving BYU, Bryant has learned a lot of life lessons, ones that he wants to share with kids that dream of playing basketball at a high level.
“For me, it’s embracing the journey. You’re going to have ups and downs. But really embrace the journey and try to learn as much as possible, even through adversity. There are going to be highs and lows,” he said. “But if you’re able to look at every ‘failure’ as a learning process, then your experience is going to be 10-times better. Everyone looks at my journey thus far and they say it’s been nothing but (success). But they don’t see all the hard times, all the bad games, living in a small apartment, that type of stuff.”
In Turkey, Bryant was with his family, including son Blu, who is turning 2 soon.
As for being a dad, “it puts everything into perspective,” he said. “When you have good games or bad games, you realize what’s important and what’s not important.”
Being with his family during the season was “a way better situation now, for sure,” he said. “We’re grateful. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it.”
Bryant is happy about the way his professional career is panning out. Returning to the NBA isn’t necessarily a goal he wants to chase.
“At this point, I’ve kind of checked it off the list. I’m not super hungry for the NBA,” he said. “It has to make sense for me and my family. If it does, I’ll give it another shot. If it doesn’t, I’ve checked that box. I was fortunate enough to win a championship. That kind of anxiety is off my plate now. A weight is off my shoulders.”