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Family Ties

Former Rockets guard has followed family into the coaching business



Bryce Drew couldn't walk into a grocery store near Valparaiso's campus without creating a ruckus when he was the school's starting point guard.

Since he's returned, however, the former Rockets guard has been usually able to breeze through the 15-items-or-less lane without any trouble.

Bryce, who will forever be remembered as the man who helped put Valparaiso on the college basketball map with his buzzer-winning, improbable shot to upset Ole Miss at the 1998 NCAA Tournament, has -- sort of -- become an average citizen in Valparaiso, Ind.

He is an assistant coach on the school's basketball team and is no longer spending the majority of his time around town reliving "The Shot."

"I'm treated like a normal person around campus," Bryce said. "There are quite a few people around town who still remember the shot, but not as many people bring it up."

He'd better enjoy the low profile while it last because he could be the talk of Valparaiso again in the near future.

Houston's former first round pick has followed the Drew family tradition into the coaching business and he could one day become Valparaiso's head coach.

Bryce's father, Homer Drew, currently serves as the head coach at Valparaiso and his older brother, Scott Drew, is the coach at Baylor after spending nine years as an assistant on his father's staff.

The majority of people in Indiana believe the youngest Drew will eventually inherit the Valparaiso program when his father retires.

Bryce, 31, isn't as sure. He has been an assistant for one season and hasn't decided if he wants to spend the next stage of his life drawing up plays.

"We'll see what happens," Bryce said. "My father is going to coach for a few more years and I'm just taking my job year-by-year."

The decision to even become a coach was actually tougher than people might imagine.

Despite the family's legacy, Bryce took his time mulling an offer to join his father's staff in the summer of 2005. The guard was still playing professional basketball in Italy after a six-year career in the NBA, including two seasons with the Rockets.

He wasn't sure if he wanted to trade his sneakers for a clipboard.

"I was being given a great opportunity to work with my Dad," Bryce said. "I just wasn't sure if I was ready to leave playing the game because I could have played longer in Europe. But now, I'm content with the choice I made."

Scott wasn't surprised by his brother's eventual decision. He could see that Bryce had qualities to become a coach even during his college days.

"I always thought there was a chance Bryce would go into coaching when he finished playing," Scott said. "He always loved helping teach young kids even when he was still playing professionally."

During his first season as an assistant, Valparaiso finished 17-12 and narrowly missed a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The Crusaders will be returning two starters from that squad for the 2006-07 season.

How was working for Dad in Year One?

"It always helps when you've known your boss your whole life," Bryce said. "He might be a little harder on me than other bosses because he expects a lot from me, but at the same time, he's more lenient in some ways."

When he was playing under the guidance of his father, Bryce became one of the most prolific shooters in school history.

He collected dozens of honors and records, including three conference tournament MVP awards in the Mid-Continent and two regular season MVPs. He led the team to three consecutive conference regular season and tournament championships and remains the school's all-time leader in scoring, three-point field goals and assists.

However, even with all those trophies and numbers, most people remember him for "The Shot."

During the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, 14th-seeded Valparaiso was facing third-seeded Mississippi. The Rebels were clinging to a 69-67 lead with 2.5 seconds left and Valpo needed to go the length of the floor to get a shot off for either a tie or win.

The Crusaders went to a play called "The Pacer." Jamie Sykes inbounded a long pass to Bill Jenkins, who passed the ball to a wide-open Bryce. Bryce released a 23-foot bomb as time expired and sunk it to give the Crusaders a stunning 70-69 win. Valparaiso ended up riding that win to the Sweet 16.

"The Shot," as it has become known in Valparaiso, is still widely played in March during the NCAA Tournament.

"All that needs to be said in Valpo is 'The Shot' and instantly, everyone smiles because that was one of those priceless moments," Scott said.

Behind Bryce's performance in the NCAA Tournament, the guard impressed NBA scouts -- and the Rockets -- enough to take him a first round prospect. Houston took him with the 16th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-3 guard spent two seasons in Houston before being traded to Chicago in 2000 and spending the next three years with the New Orleans Hornets. Bryce averaged 4.4 points per game over his NBA career and shot 37.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

During his two seasons with the Rockets, he played with Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. Bryce was on the court when Barkley got into his well-documented scuffle with then-Lakers big man Shaquille O'Neal. Did Bryce get anywhere near the bout?

"Heck, no," he said. "I stayed out of that."

Since leaving the NBA, Bryce's basketball career has come full circle. He is back in Valparaiso where it all begin and listening to his father try to guide the small Indiana university back to the NCAA Tournament.

Bryce has shared his own wisdom from his NBA career.

"I was blessed with some skills, but I wasn't big," Bryce said. "I was self-made. I put in a lot of hours to become the player that I was. I enjoy working with these kids on how to improve their game. It's rewarding and I think they can accomplish what I did."

The kid who was once the toast of Valparaiso is beginning to sound like a coach.