Part of the NCAA basketball tournament’s first wave of games on Thursday, millions focused in on the result of the Yale-Baylor game with vested interest.
While most looked on in the hope their bracket did not crash and burn, Spring Valley’s Jordan Bruner had a different reason for the game – which ultimately proved to be the tournament’s first upset – holding his attention.
The 6-foot-9 forward committed to Yale in November, choosing the Ivy League program over Clemson. Among the reasons for his choosing the Bulldogs was the team’s underrated tenacity, which was on full display in their 79-75 victory over Baylor.
“Everyone pretty much sleeps on (Yale) because they play in a smaller conference, but they played with quite the competitive spirit,” said Bruner, whose future squad was eliminated by Duke on Saturday. “Some think it’s all about rebounds and athleticism, but Yale is just a good team. They box out and attack hard, and if you don’t a team like that seriously they’ll come out and step on your throat.”
With his college decision in the rear view, he helped lead the Vikings to a 20-8 record and a berth in the Upper State final, losing to eventual Class AAAA state champion Byrnes. This season, Bruner averaged 14.5 points and nearly five blocks per game.
For his work, he was voted to the Class AAAA All-State team by the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association, in addition to being ranked one of the top five players and ranked among the Class of 2016’s elite prospects.
Bruner credits his coaches and teammates – specifically former Spring Valley standout and South Carolina freshman point guard P.J. Dozier – for his success.
“(Dozier) was one of my best friends,” he said. “ ... It was just good to be around him, he was a great player and had a great work ethic. He really pushed me, and that’s where I got a lot of my drive from. It was great chasing him and trying to do great things, and as a result helped continue a great tradition at Spring Valley.”
Spring Valley’s senior standout will complete his prep career at this year’s edition of the Carolinas Classic All-Star Game, which takes place Saturday night at Socastee High School.
“It’s great to come out here and see a lot of players you have played against, and those you haven’t played against but have heard a lot about,” Bruner said. “More importantly, you see guys are cool people. You’re able to meet people that have the same goals and ambitions as you.
“Everyone is a great player or they wouldn’t be here, so I’m looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
One last time for an all-time great
Kiana Jeter had no intentions of becoming a high school basketball legend when she first stepped foot on the Spartanburg High gym as a seventh grader.
Five seasons and 3,067 points later, her name now resides along with some of the state’s all time greats.
“Honestly, since I started it was a love for basketball and a drive for winning,” Jeter said. “It wasn’t really about the points, I really just wanted to win.”
In her senior season, she was named the S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, in addition to being voted an all-state performer by members of the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association.
Currently, she is undecided as to where she will play college ball, though visits to Coastal Carolina and North Carolina A&T are in her near future.
However, getting the opportunity to play in one of the more prestigious all-star games this state has to offer is not one she takes lightly.
“It’s a great opportunity to see where I match up with the best of the best,” Jeter said. “I love a challenge.”
Teammates and brothers
Having played together since their days as youths, North Mecklenburg seniors Jaylen McManus and Davion Mintz dreamt of one day bringing a state title back home to Huntersville.
That dream was left unfulfilled, though, falling to a solid Charlotte Catholic team in the state semifinal round. Admittedly tough, the lifelong friends – both North Carolina all-stars – quickly put together another mission, to ensure what is likely their final game together a special one.
“We’ve played together since we were about 7 or 8 years old,” Mintz said. “That loss (to Charlotte Catholic) was a tough one to swallow. But we also knew there was one game left to play, and we were going to make the most of it.”
This past season, McManus scored 19 points per game, while averaging nine assists. Mintz, on the other hand, averaged 21 points and seven assists, making more than half of the shots he attempted.
“It was just a lot of fun having the opportunity to play together,” McManus said.
Mintz is headed to Creighton after graduation. McManus has yet to decide his college plans.