STORY BY CHRIS LEE | TOP PHOTO BY WHITNEY JARRELD
In the waning seconds of the third quarter of this week’s game with Knoxville’s Grace Christian Academy, a GCA player hits a 3. Christ Presbyterian Academy’s Bryce McCormick catches the ensuing inbounds pass, takes two steps, and banks in a shot from the low block just in time to beat the buzzer.
It’s a huge play in a 52-50 win that night, one that vaults CPA into the state semifinals.
Did we mention it was from the low block on the other end of the floor?
“It’s kind of a freak thing how it happened,” McCormick remembers. “Our student section…they were doing that fake countdown thing, so I think the [Grace Christian shooter] saw there was actually like one second left when he took the shot.
“And he shot and hit it, and I actually was thinking about not really shooting it, and I looked up at the clock and I saw about 3.3 seconds and so I was like, I might as well just take a shot at it, and I passed into my teammate Braden Moore, and I made eye contact.
“And he threw it right back and I just let it go. It felt good all the way basically.”
It’s fitting that CPA is coached by noted trick-shot artist Drew Maddux. But Maddux laughs when asks if he gets credit for that one.
“I would like to be able to say that, you know, I’m such a brilliant coach that we work on those shots every day, but certainly we do not,” Maddux said. “But I know it’s, it’s one of those moments in time that you may never make a shot like that.
“But [McCormick], moment after moment, game after game, and I’ve been in enough with him, he just makes plays when they’ve got to be made.”
An old man’s game
Bryce McCormick has made a career of being unconventional.
McCormick looks like the least-likely candidate to be the team’s point guard. He’s built like a college linebacker—which he’ll be at Furman this fall—from head to toe.
And yet he is.
A good one, too. McCormick averages 14.5 points and 7.3 assists per game, shoots 53 percent from the field and 71-percent from the line.
“You can’t always be judged by what’s on the surface and certainly [with] his physical attributes, you would think he’s more a power forward type in high school,” Maddux said. “But just growing up as a young man that grew up at my camps, that grew up in the gym with us every weekend, at my skill clinics and then watching him through middle school, I knew he had a gift. … And he was always advanced in terms of the skill set, of being able to handle the ball.
“He’s as gifted a passer as I’ve ever coached or ever seen at the high school level and many college coaches have even told me he is the best high school passer they have ever seen.”
McCormick uses what’s ordinarily a hinderance at that position to his advantage.
“The thing that really helped me I guess it’s having that linebacker body,” he says. “A lot of guys have better handling what I do, I use my body kind of like an old-man-basketball-kind-of-way, kinda like Magic Johnson did. I back down guys a lot, use my size to my advantage.”
However, aspects of McCormick’s character make him a natural point guard.
“I knew he had a special giftedness and being able to handle the ball, but even bigger than that, his intangibles, what it means to be a leader,” Maddux said. “And naturally by the position of being a point guard spot sometimes I’ll take lesser of a skill set for a guy that can lead our team because just visually he’s always in front of the pack and so I want to instill confidence on every single possession.
“And so there’s no better guy for our team to be looking to them to Bryce McCormick.”
McCormick was perhaps better known as a two-way star on the football team, which he led to a state title this year while playing running back and linebacker.
His gridiron coach, Ingle Martin, saw the same characteristics.
“Bryce is the type of leader who truly puts the team above self,” Martin said. “He has always made those around him better, whether it be is work ethic by example or his words used to encourage the group.
“Bryce always thought about the team.”
“It starts with the way that he naturally serves others,” Maddux adds. “In a way, he’s a servant first. And so he operates from a position of humility.”
Maddux marvels at how quickly his senior transitioned back to hoops this winter.
“I remember the first game he played against [Franklin Road Academy] right here on our court. I think at halftime he had a double-double already with 12 points and 11 assists in the first half. It was really incredible that was that was three days after stepping off the state football championship field. It takes somebody special to be able to make that mental emotional switch and he’s just adding another incredible year.
“He’ll be an all-state basketball player this year and I don’t know how many people can say they’re an all-state football and basketball player in the same year.”
Next stop: Furman
Martin sees more growth for McCormick in football.
“Furman is getting a natural leader who is just not touching his potential as an athlete,” he said. “I expect great things from him in Greenville!”
The senior be heading to his football coach’s alma mater to continue his playing career.
McCormick hasn’t decided on a major, but is leaning towards either getting into coaching or business when he’s finished.
He’ll first try to win another state title before he leaves. And when he’s gone, he’ll leave a hole.
“He’s even more special than I could have ever imagined, as he’s leaving the program,” Maddux said. “There’s not been a day that I’ve not considered the highest of honors to have been his coach.
“He’s an incredible young man that loves others, that loves the gift of sport and understands, within context, what sports should be used for, and the pursuit of excellence, but namely of what it means to be in relationship with others and what it means to pursue something bigger than themselves.
“And nobody exemplifies that more than that young man.”
Second photo submitted by CPA.