South Carolina Boys Basketball Player of the Year - Bryan Narcisse
Bryan Narcisse's basketball career has been defined by his ability to overcome obstacles.
The North Augusta senior was cut from his middle school basketball team. His varsity career started out rather inauspiciously, too.
"I got into the game, and the very first time I touched the ball, I walked," he said. On the next possession, he passed the ball to the referee.
"But coach didn't take me out of the game right away, he left me in and kind of let me learn from that mistake, and I'm better off for it," Narcisse said.
It's somewhat fitting, then, that in the twilight of high school, he would confront yet another challenge. Narcisse, who signed Nov. 14 with Division I Western Kentucky, was granted a release Thursday from his scholarship.
Narcisse, The Augusta Chronicle South Carolina All-Area Boys Player of the Year, was recruited by former Hilltoppers coach Darrin Horn, who left April 1 to coach South Carolina. Narcisse said his parents already had doubts about the distance -- some 460 miles -- and Narcisse took the opportunity to look closer to home.
"While we had the opportunity, my parents wanted me to find an opportunity for me to be closer to them," Narcisse said.
The 6-foot-7 power forward was being looked at by Charlotte, Providence and Furman, among others, and he said he does not have a front-runner.
Coach Al Young said he saw potential in the "tall, long, lanky" kid, who played point guard as a freshman and sophomore. For a big player, the coach said, he has excellent shooting and ball-handling skills.
His physical gifts are abundant. Narcisse was the 2007 South Carolina state runner-up in the high jump.
But his track and field career started with a dreadful fall.
On an attempt at a 6-foot jump during his first meet at South Aiken last season, Narcisse crashed into the bar, tumbled off the mat onto the concrete.
A few months later, he cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to take second at state.
It's that perseverance that sets him apart, and it's the main reason Narcisse was honored.
Young said Narcisse was a quiet leader for the team and would ask to work out in the gym every morning during the off-season.
"It wasn't me asking him, it was him asking me," the coach said.
"His leadership is very quiet, he's always worked," Young said.
With time, and a few added pounds and inches, Narcisse grew into an imposing power forward. This past season, he averaged 13.6 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals per game.
"I just think when he's on the court he makes people alter their games and alter their plans," Young said.
Quiet and humble, Narcisse lets his play and the cheers from the stands speak for him. His penchant for fast-break dunks earned him many loyal fans in the North Augusta student section.
"I use the crowd as motivation. Whether it's a fast-break dunk or taking one off the rim, I just want to get the crowd into it," he said.
As he started to catch the attention of opposing teams and college scouts, Narcisse had to contend with something new: name-calling. His Horace Grant-style goggles are an easy target, but he shrugs it off.
"I've been called a number of names," he said. "South Aiken fans call me SCUBA Steve; my junior year, they called me Mr. Magoo. I get Horace Grant a lot."
The name of a 17-year veteran with four world title rings is a high compliment.
Narcisse's nickname at school is "B-Nice." It's embroidered on his headband and letterman's jacket.
"He's always courteous and gets along well with all of the kids, and I think that's a big, big plus, especially when you're the type of athlete he is," Young said.
"With the kind of attention he gets, I just don't think that affects him or his personality."
Narcisse holds a 3.8 GPA and is a member of North Augusta High's Hall of Fame for academic, public service and athletic achievement.
"Perseverance is a big part of who he is and he's very goal-oriented," Young said.
Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.