While Bryce Drew won’t be returning to the NCAA tournament this year after losing to Detroit in the Horizon League championship Tuesday night, the future is looks rosy for the first-year head coach.
The storyline of Drew, who arguably hit the greatest NCAA tournament shot in the last 20 years, returning to March Madness while both his parents battle cancer, would have been media gold. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. However, if Drew’s first season as a head coach is any indication, he won’t have to wait long to return to the Big Dance.
The days ahead look good for Drew, but he isn’t the only Bryce with a bright future.
In Viera, Fla., Bryce Harper is setting his sights on the majors. Perhaps the most highly-touted prospect since Alex Rodriguez after gracing Sports Illustrated’s cover at 16-years old, Harper is a superstar in waiting.
So watching the Horizon League title game, I got to thinking: Which Bryce has the brighter future?
We go to the tape!
Born: Sept. 21, 1976 (shares a birthday with me, not the 1976 part, thankfully.)
Weight: 185 lbs.*
Education: Valparaiso University (’98)
Current position: Valparaiso University head basketball coach.
Born: Oct. 16, 1992
Weight: 225 lbs.
Education: What’s that?
Current position: Outfielder fighting for a spot on the Nationals’ Opening Day roster, but more than likely to start the season in Triple-A.
Bryce Drew: The Shot. As if you didn’t know.
Bryce Harper: A YouTube hit, Harper launched a 502-foot home run off the Tropicana Field scoreboard during a high school home run contest. They say it’s the longest in the illustrious (cough) stadium’s history. That’s neat and all, but he used an aluminum bat. (Fast forward to 4:30 mark.)
Advantage: Bryce Drew in a cakewalk
Bryce Drew: Scott Drew. Scott was an assistant under dad, Homer, for nine years before assuming the head coaching role for one season in 2002. He parlayed a Mid-Con regular season title into his current gig at Baylor. Scott took over a program in shambles after the Dave Bliss fiasco and has taken Baylor to new heights.
In 2010, the Bears won 28 games and reached the Elite Eight. A relentless recruiter, Scott has managed to convince some of the nation’s top players, such as Perry Jones III and Isaiah Austin that Waco has more to offer than crazed cults. This season, the Bears are 25-6 and ranked No. 11 in the country heading into the Big 12 tournament.
Bryce Harper: Bryan Harper. A left-handed pitcher, Bryan transferred from Cal State-Northridge to the University of Southern Nevada to babysit his little bro, who left high school after his sophomore year. Ironically, Bryan was drafted by the Nationals in the 31st round of the 2008 draft, but didn’t sign.
Once Bryce was drafted and done with Southern Nevada, Bryan transferred to South Carolina. He was drafted by the Cubs in 2010, but didn’t sign, and was drafted a year later again by the Nationals. He appeared in two games for the Nationals rookie ball team in 2011, throwing two scoreless innings.
Advantage: Bryce Drew
Bryce Drew: Tuesday night’s defeat against Detroit certainly stings, but I’m going to go with Drew’s senior year at Valparaiso High School. Winner of Indiana’s prestigious Mr. Basketball, Drew lost just one game that season. Unfortunately it came in overtime in the state final.
A lot of you probably thought I was going to go with his NBA career. Drafted 16th overall by Houston in 1998, Drew started just 46 games in his 243-game NBA career, with his best season in 2000-01 with Chicago when he started 41 games and averaged 6.3 ppg and 3.9 apg. But for a white shooting guard with limited athleticism from a no-name program, six years in the NBA can’t really be a disappointment. Right?
Bryce Harper: National Junior College Athletic Association World Series playing for the University of Southern Nevada. After a called third strike, Harper drew a line in the dirt with his bat where he thought the pitch actually was. The umpire tossed him. It was Harper’s second ejection of the year, dictating a two-game suspension. Southern Nevada lost the game in which Harper was ejected and lost its next game with their stud suspended, eliminating the team from the tournament.
Advantage: Bryce Drew. I doubt Harper loses any sleep about not winning the Junior College World Series.
Bryce Drew: Should be a major conference coach soon, possibly next season.
Bryce Harper: Could be a 21st century Roy Hobbs.
Advantage: Bryce Harper.
Bryce Drew: His dad. Homer took little Valparaiso to seven NCAA tournaments during his 18 years as the school’s head coach, including the magical 1998 Sweet Sixteen run. One of college basketball’s good guys, Homer finished his career with a 640-428 record (.599). His battle with prostate cancer has been well documented, though his most recent prognosis was encouraging.
Bryce Harper: His high school coaches claim he hit a 570-foot home run his sophomore year that cleared three lanes of traffic and landed somewhere in the Nevada desert. There’s a hint of hyperbole there.
ARTICLE THIS WEEK
Bryce Drew: “Parents’ cancer battles give Valpo coach heavy dose of perspective,” by the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh.
“Now, like every March since 1998, the Drews still represent hope against the odds. Now, more than ever, the family still cheerfully believes in long shots.”
Bryce Harper: “Bryce Harper: Prodigy will be a star by any name,” by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. The lead does the trick:
“During his first spring training with the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper answered to a different name. Bitch boy. Harper was 18 years old, owner of a $9.9 million contract and came into camp proclaiming he wanted to make the Nationals without having played a single game in the minor leagues. The placard above his locker that should’ve said HARPER 34 was replaced by a veteran who wanted to ensure the kid recognized who he was and where he stood.
This spring, go-round No. 2, the first full-squad workout greeted Harper with a kinder, gentler and still-inaccurate nameplate: NAMATH 12.
Hey, it’s better than Bitch Boy.”
Advantage: Bryce Harper
Bryce Drew: Valparaiso, Ind. Noteworthy for two reasons, Bryce Drew’s shot in 1998 and the home of Orville Redenbacher. Having graduated from Indiana University, I met one Region Rat too many. (That’s what we call people from Northwest Indiana, aka The Region.)
Bryce Harper: Las Vegas. Luckily, an empty wallet is the only thing I brought home with me. So that’s a win.
Advantage: Bryce Harper
Bryce Drew 4, Bryce Harper 3
So there you have it. Sure he might be 37 years old and Harper is just 19, but the science says Drew has the brighter future. Plus, how many can’t miss baseball prospects have flopped? Todd Van Poppel, Ben McDonald and any pitcher the Mets pick come to mind. Not that I’m saying Harper is going to flop. The kid is sick. But come on, Drew and I share a birthday. Did you really think he was losing this one?