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Home Schooling

here are X's and O's that you get from your coach, and the unlimited XXOO's that only a parent knows how to provide. Bryce Drew was fortunate enough to find both kinds from the same place. Like it or not, Drew has basketball in his blood.

Bryce Drew
Drew has proven to be a skilled ball-handler with a solid assist-to-turnover ratio throughout his NBA tenure.
Bill Smith, Chicago Bulls
Drew's sister, Dana, played for the women's basketball team at Toledo University and is married to Casey Shaw - a former member of the Philadelphia 76ers who currently plays professionally in Italy. His older brother, Scott, is the assistant basketball coach at Valparaiso University. And as most people who are familiar with the Drew family legacy know, Bryce's father, Homer, is Valpo's head coach.

The Drew father-and-son team will forever be linked to the upset victory over Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tournament. In the single-elimination round, Bryce hit the dramatic game-winning shot off an out-of-bounds play that was drawn up by his dad.

But to young Bryce, game-winning home runs were the stuff that first dreams were made of. "When we were raising our children, all we wanted to do was expose them to a variety of activities and allow them to choose for themselves," says Homer Drew of his three kids. "We wanted them to gravitate toward finding their own niche in life. And early on, Dana was our basketball player, Scott was our tennis player and Bryce was our baseball player."

In fact, his father points out that Bryce's best sport might have been tennis. "He never had a lesson yet he went to the state championship tournament his junior year of high school."

But it was those pinstripes that got his attention, at least for a while. "Playing centerfield, I'd usually get one or two balls come my way all game and maybe bat four or five times. It just kind of got boring," recalls Bryce. "In basketball, there's always something going on."

Having a father who makes a living coaching often means a few family activities fall victim to Dad's long hours and frequent road trips. But there are some perks as well, like having a key to the gym on snowy winter days in Indiana. "All three of the kids were gym rats," remembers Homer. "During my practices, they'd play hide-and-seek or tag in the gym. Then, afterwards, we'd all play everything from whiffleball to football."

When Bryce began high school, he sometimes practiced with his dad's Valparaiso team. But during that time he faced a much tougher challenge. Drew began experiencing irregular heartbeats. Whenever he'd do something active, his heart would start racing as fast as 220 beats a minute. He'd have to immediately stop and rest until his heart would slow down. "It was a very scary time," admits Bryce. "It was something I constantly thought about whenever I stepped on the court."

It was also a very scary time for his parents. "There were several incidents when Bryce was playing tennis or basketball, and we'd have to rush him to the hospital. I would put my hand over his heart, and it would be beating at such a fast rate. This truly increased our praying life a great deal," says Homer Drew.

His doctors diagnosed the condition as AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia - an arrhythmia stemming from an abnormality in the electrical conduction system of the heart.

Bryce Drew
Drew's arrival in Chicago mean that his father, Valpo head coach Homer Drew, would be able to see him play more often.
Bill Smith, Chicago Bulls
The Drews saw an array of specialists who all said the same thing - it was not life threatening. "If there were any question, it would be an easy decision," states Homer. "You just don't play. Bryce would just have to learn to live with this or perhaps outgrow it."

Unfortunately, the older he got, the more frequently he experienced the episodes. And what made the situation more unnerving was finding out that heart problems took the life of Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount University and Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics. "Once we heard that they passed away, we quickly checked to make sure it was different from what Bryce had," says Homer.

As a family, the Drews decided that surgery was the best course of treatment. When Bryce was a high school junior, he opted for a procedure called a catheter ablation, performed at the Indiana Heart Institute, in Indianapolis. The first attempt to cure the problem only helped for a couple of weeks. Drew eventually had to undergo the procedure two more times before it worked for good. "Finally, through the blessing of the Lord, my heart was healed and I was healthy," says a thankful Drew. "When I started practicing regularly with the team my senior year, that was the first time I felt I didn't have to worry about it anymore and ended up having a good year."

A good year is an understatement. Drew averaged 24 points a game his senior year while leading his team to second in state. He was also named Indiana's Mr. Basketball (Bonzi Wells of the Portland Trailblazers was runner up).

Now Drew was faced with another big dilemma - although this is a condition most student athletes dream of having. Which college scholarship offer to accept? Eventually he narrowed it down to two. "Notre Dame and Valpo were my final choices," Drew explains. "And I just decided that I wanted to stay with my dad."

Although Homer Drew would welcome his son with open arms, he elected not to give him the hard sell. "I wanted it to truly be his decision. I wanted him to enjoy his four years of college wherever he went."

Coaching your child can be a very special experience, but it can also bring on pressure and resentment from the rest of the team. Coach Drew, however, felt very at ease from day one. "As all three of our kids grew up, I was often their little league coach, so I was very comfortable in coaching them. Bryce took me off the hot seat by becoming our best player," laughs Homer. "If I got criticized, it was for not letting him shoot enough or for taking him out of games."

Bryce Drew
Drew's work ethic and character help him fit in with Elton Brand and the Bulls.
Bill Smith, Chicago Bulls
Perhaps the toughest moments for Bryce to overcome were not during games or practices. They were afterward in the locker room. When practice is particularly difficult or trying, players often criticize the coach. So Bryce came up with a unique solution. "Usually after practice I would just stay and shoot because I didn't want to go in the locker room and hear complaining."

But he's quick to say that his team was understanding about his situation. And Bryce admits that his father was usually harder on him then anybody else. "I would tease Bryce that the reason he got so good was because he stayed out and worked on his game," jokes Homer.

Growing up, the Drew family would often watch the NCAA tournament together. Little did they know that someday they'd make history in one of the most dramatic victories in tournament history.

At the beginning of that year, father and son were driving together when Bryce mentioned to Homer that he had never hit a game-winning shot in college. Although he'd had his share of key baskets or free throws toward the end of the game, he never experienced hitting one at the buzzer. "Maybe God is waiting to save the best for last," was Homer's response.

With 2.5 seconds left in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament, Bryce and his teammates got in position for the out-of-bounds play they'd worked on numerous times in practice. But the odds were not in their favor.

"In practice, it works maybe 50 percent of the time. And that's with no defense," admitted Homer. "So it was a tough thing to execute. But once the ball ended up in Bryce's hands, I thought we really had a chance because I've seen him make that shot a thousand times in practice and another thousand times in our backyard."

Bryce Drew
After missing 17 games earlier this year, Drew's return to the lineup has sparked the Bulls, making the team more competitive.
David Kyle, NBAE Photos
Ironically, Bryce took the shot only a few feet away from where his dad was standing near the bench, and both admit that although the shot was on line, it looked like it would be short. "Sometimes I think the prayers in the building just gave it enough air to get over the rim," says Coach Drew.

All those times coming early and staying late at the gym required a lot of work and dedication. "But it's like everything paid off in that one shot," says Bryce.

So was the game winner his fondest memory in Drew's college career? "That and I dunked once in practice," he laughs. "Also my last home game was very emotional. I went to high school and college in Valparaiso. I scored 33 points, including nine three-pointers, which is a school record. And when the game was over, talked to the crowd after playing for the last time there."

Perhaps the best part about Bryce Drew's decision to play at Valpo is seeing his father at his real job. "A lot of coaches say they treat all their players like their own sons, but I know my dad really does. He goes around to every player to see how classes are going, how they're feeling - I didn't get any special treatment."

The Drews were used to doing things as a family, and watching the 1998 NBA Draft was no different. "We all were together, and when Bryce's name was called, we all did one of those Toyota kicks," says the proud father. "If I could have jumped that high in college, I may have played a few more years."

The Houston Rockets selected Bryce Drew as the 16th overall pick. "You never know where you're going," said an elated Drew. "I just wanted to go in the first round."

When Drew arrived in Houston, he found himself teaming up with players he grew up watching - Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. But those very men he admired affected his game when they became injured. The team game plan had to be altered. "Perimeter guys like myself and Steve Francis had to penetrate to score. The problem is, I'm not really that type of player."

In his two seasons with the Rockets, Drew averaged 5.1 points, 2.0 assists and shot .354 from three-point range.

When Drew was traded to the Chicago Bulls during the off-season, his family was very happy because now they're just an hour or so drive from his games. And according to his brother, Scott, they're not the only ones who are happy. "Our Valpo players enjoy Bryce playing for the Bulls because for us to make it to the games on time, we usually cut short the conditioning portion of our practice, and the players don't mind that at all."

Bryce Drew
"One thing about Bryce is he does make other people play better around him. And in coaching, you can't put a price tag on that."
Bill Smith, Chicago Bulls
Although Drew has been plagued by injuries, he's looking forward to contributing his share to get the Bulls back in contention. And because the team is deep at the point guard position, Drew faces a new challenge. "When Steve Francis came out last year, I knew I was going in. This year with four point guards, you never know if and when you're going to play. So the moral of the story is you always have to be ready," explains Drew.

And what does one experienced college coach think about former college coach Tim Floyd? "I think Tim has done an excellent job with not only a young team, but the youngest team in NBA history," says Homer. "I think he's blended them well, and they're going to do nothing but get better and better. If the young guys can just keep up their confidence and play hard, the next few years are going to be very exciting for the Bulls."

In college, Bryce Drew took the losses as hard as anyone and could often be found in the gym sometimes as late as 2 A.M. working on his game. "He doesn't have the athletic ability of Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen, but he does have the desire to win," Scott Drew is quick to point out. "One thing about Bryce is he does make other people play better around him. And in coaching, you can't put a price tag on that. A lot of times, people just look at numbers in what an individual can give you, but from a coaching standpoint, we care more about what kind of wins we can get from players. And I know that everywhere he's gone, he has always been a winner."

Bryce Drew would like to have a long career in the NBA. But when the time comes, will there be room on the Valparaiso bench for another Drew? "That's not going to happen for a while," explains his brother, Scott. "If he decides to come back now, we'll simply shave his head to change his identity and put him back out there on the court."