Commonwealth Journal

Features

February 26, 2013

Former General basketball standout Bryant to get key to city of Burnside

(Continued)

Burnside —

That 1972 trip to the NCAA Tournament connected Bryant in a unique way with legendary University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. 
Rupp’s last year as head coach of the Wildcats, with whom he won four NCAA Championships, was that same year. The last game he coached was in the ‘72 NCAA Tournament against eventual runner-up Florida State and its coach Hugh Durham, himself a Kentucky native, with several players from the state (including Otto Petty, Ron King, and Larry Gay) on the squad .
The Seminoles beat the Wildcats in the NCAA Regional final. FSU’s first win of the tourney? Against Bryant’s Colonels, a game in which EKU had the team from Florida down by 13 points before the ‘Noles came back to win 83-81.
Bryant called Burnside’s recognition a “great honor,” one that only endears him more to the community he fondly recalls as home. Though he lives in Lexington now, Bryant still visits Burnside often — his parents, Brother Dudley Bryant, a well-known clergyman from Burnside, and Nida, still reside there — and the “only town on Lake Cumberland” holds a place forever in his heart.
“When a community that did so much for me for 18 years honors you, that’s very special,” said Bryant. “There’s a lot of people in that community as well as the city (for whom) I always wanted to make sure I did something so they knew their interest in me hadn’t been in vain. This let’s me know I’ve given a little something back.”
Bryant made mention of Fitzgerald, the late former mayor and coach of the Generals, as a highly influential figure in his life.
“I never could have done anywhere close to what I did without Oscar Fitzgerald,” said Bryant. “He was my basketball coach from 5th grade through 12th. He was my Sunday School teacher, and the best man at my wedding.

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