Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

Bronco Sports

Calvin and John

The sole returning seniors on the team—and best buddies off the court

Hoopsters: Johnson, No. 13, and Bryant, No. 54
Photo: Charles Barry
Calvin Johnson and John Bryant played together for going on four seasons. As buddies they’ve taken road trips to visit family and spent countless hours shooting the breeze or watching TV at Bryant’s place. And when you sit the two of them down together, as we did this fall, you find an easy give-and-take— and more than a few things they share in common.

Calvin Johnson
6’2”, 200 lbs.

Family is big for Johnson, a communication major from Morton, Texas (pop. 1,835). Big, as in he’s the youngest of 11 children; he’s 21 and a great uncle— his oldest brother, Sam, is 49.

He was recruited to Santa Clara as a shooting guard. “That’s what I do best,” he says. Shooting is a pastime off the court, too: He grew up hunting with his brothers, not for big game but to help put food on the table. So who’s the best shot? “Sam—he’s pretty much quick-draw McGraw. By the time we see a rabbit, he’s shot it.” He pauses, then admits, when it comes to speed, “I might be next.”

Family haven’t yet been able to make it to Santa Clara to see Johnson play. But one of them is always with him on the court. Tattooed on his left shoulder is the name of an older brother, Robert, who died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 36, while Calvin was a junior in high school. “He was one of the best players in our family,” Johnson says. When Johnson readies for a free throw, you’ll see him dribble once, set up, tap his arm, then shoot. “He’d always tell me, ‘Don’t worry about what’s around you, it’s just you and the hoop while you’re shooting the free-throw.'”

When we chatted this fall, Johnson had just returned from a surprise visit home. The downside of not letting his mother know he was coming: She didn’t have time to make him any pecan pies to bring back, and they’re his favorite.

Bryant nods. “My favorite, too.”

John Bryant
6’11”, 275 lbs.

There’s less to Bryant than there used to be. About 75 pounds. Last season the sociology major led the WCC in rebounding and blocked shots, and he was second in scoring. But last spring he said he grew sick of hearing the word potential and got serious about a training program that, over the summer, brought his weight under 300 pounds for the first time in years.

“That’s pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “With Coach Kerry Keating coming in, it unchained me mentally. I just was like: All right, I’m going to get this done.”

The Bay Area native went to Pinole Valley High School, and when he arrived at Santa Clara he weighed about 350. By last season he was down to 310; then he knocked off 35 pounds, thanks to a serious workout routine—two to three times a day—plus a diet leaning less toward 99-cent cheeseburgers and more toward grilled chicken and asparagus. Keating says Bryant is a serious contender for WCC player of the year; more important, he’s shown that he has the focus to help lead seven newcomers on the team.

This September, Bryant unexpectedly made the news off the court: Coming home from a party near Lafayette and Market streets, he was attacked by three men and stabbed three times in the back. Bryant was taken to a nearby hospital, treated, and released. And he was ready for the first team practice on Oct. 17. “Just a bump in my road,” he said.

One bonus to Bryant being a little lighter on his feet: more dunks. “Always a crowd-pleaser,” Bryant says. One thing that hasn’t changed, though: Those feet still sport a size 18 shoe. That, and, Bryant says, “I’m the most easygoing guy that you could ever think of.”

“Besides Calvin,” Johnson says.

—SBS and MS