It didn’t take long for me to learn the importance of getting to games early. It’s a chance to settle in, talk to a few people, watch a gym, field or stadium fill up and mostly be ready for what’s coming up in the next few hours to not miss a beat.
Early arrivals are part of my routine and often it means catching the last quarter or so of a junior varsity game, particularly during basketball season.
I walked into the gym last season preparing to cover the MacArthur boys team, talked with scorer Chuck Weigel and anyone else around me. Then I scanned the Generals’ bench — it’s always good to see who is playing well or who looks like they’re awfully big for a freshman or sophomore.
As I watched, I fixated on JV head coach Tarise Bryson. His energy was infectious. The way he talked with players and officials, to teach and to be taught jumped out.
“Man, this guy is going to be a helluva head coach one day,” I thought.
Bryson’s story is well-told in Decatur. He starred at Stephen Decatur and went on to become a Hall of Famer at Illinois State University as the seventh all-time leading scorer in the history of the men’s basketball program.
On Tuesday, when Ron Ingram’s resignation was accepted by the Decatur Public School Board of Education, I thought back to that sideline in the JV game — and then when Bryson was an assistant coach on the varsity team — and thought, "That time is now."
When MacArthur can begin interviewing candidates, it should have plenty of interest. The team won a regional championship last season, is in a community steeped in basketball tradition and returns plenty of talent such as Eric Livingston, Qua Smith and Nick Spannaus in addition to the additions by transfer of Brylan Phillips, Caleb Patton, Karon Shelley and Mekhi Phillips.
Bryson, who confirmed on Wednesday that he will apply for the position after assuming the interim coach role, is the perfect hire; a Runnin’ Reds slam dunk, a high-arching, nothing-but-net 3-pointer that he drained around town and around the Missouri Valley Conference.
He's been with the program since 2015 and players envy him. He did what every player wants to do — play in college — and knows how to do it. He knows the players; in fact, he’s got a pulse on the entire Decatur basketball community. Pull a thread around town and it won’t take long to realize that Bryson invests time and energy into player development. This isn’t new.
Decatur is a unique city for basketball tradition. Everyone knows the players who were good in high school, who played in college and beyond. They know of them because the names live in lore and because those players always find a way to give back, whether it be as a coach, with a camp or as a mentor.
Rodney Walker did it with the SkyWalker International building and with his time as Eisenhower’s head coach. Michael Phillips has been an assistant in town, so has Monty Wilson. Darius Adams, Jeremy Robinson and Lewis Jackson have hosted camps in town. More recently, the Brummett twins talk to young players when they’re in town for a game.
The list goes on and on for decades and decades.
Bryson is no different. He played with older players at the park, dominated the high school scene and played with younger players during and after college. He’s been a highly regarded assistant on Ingram’s staff for years. Ingram gave Bryson the endorsement and indicated he’d even stick around the staff if Bryson gets the position.
Bryson can relate to kids and knows how to get to the next level. Ingram has praised the individual drills Bryson puts players through to improve their game and how Bryson improved Ingram has a coach. Bryson praises Ingram and has always wanted to be a head coach.
There’s a rich institutional basketball knowledge in Decatur and Bryson is smack in the center of it, respected by his peers.
This Generals team has all the potential in the world, but speed bumps exist for every team with talent and Bryson’s experience, relationship with the players and basketball know-how can help flatten those bumps.
Interview processes are important in every field, but the right person for the job has been on the Generals’ sidelines for years.
It should be Tarise Bryson’s time now.
PHOTOS: MacArthur wins Class 3A regional
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25
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