The junior has stuffed the stat sheets and played solid defense for the team his dad coaches
KIRTLAND — For a player who is either first or second on the Kirtland Central boys basketball team in every major statistical category, Bryson Dowdy sure is hard on himself.
"I need to make more of my open shots. I've been a little shaky these last couple of games," Dowdy said today at Kirtland Central High School. "And if I could cut down on my turnovers, that'd be great. And hit more of my free throws."
The junior could seemingly go on and on about the holes in his game, even though this season's stats prove his immense value to the 10-7 Broncos, who are District 1-5A title hopefuls and have started out 2-0 in the district.
Dowdy, a three-sport athlete, is currently the third-leading scorer in all of Class 5A with a points-per-game average of 17.8. He's also tops on the team in rebounds (6.7), steals (2.7) and field-goal percentage (56 percent). He's second on the team in blocks (1.2), assists (3.1) and 3-point percentage (42 percent).
It's possible that Dowdy is so critical of himself because playing mistake-free basketball was ingrained in him as a freshman by his coach, who also happens to be his father.
Brian Dowdy coached his son on and off throughout the athlete's life. He took the job as KC's varsity coach before the 2014-2015 season, which was his son's freshman year.
After tryouts that year, the coach said he wasn't considering his son for varsity. He admitted he was predisposed to placing the freshman on the junior varsity squad, mostly because he didn't want it to seem like he was showing favoritism. That was until his assistant coaches reminded him of just how impressive his son was that fall.
"I didn't want him up there as a freshman, it was kind of funny," Coach Dowdy said. "We did the whole tryout, and we went to his name, and I wasn't even thinking about him. My coaches said, 'Well, what about Bryson?' And I said, 'If you guys want my job you can have it.'"
The father and son's relationship has always been strong, but it was strained early in the teenager's career because his dad was extra hard on him.
"I rode him really hard those first two years, because he was my son and he was young. It wasn't like he was a senior," Dowdy said. "But this year, our relationship has been a lot more mellow. He'll come into my office, and we'll talk basketball there, and then we'll try to be the father and son at home."
The younger Dowdy said his habit of turning over the ball — he's second on KC this year with 3.0 per game — was worse in his first two seasons, and that added fuel to the fire when it came to his dad's hard-nosed coaching style.
"At first, he was really tough on me, just making sure I didn't turn the ball over a lot," he said. "I was a freshman and his son, so I couldn't have very many mistakes."
Coach Dowdy said he sometimes regrets not being able to just be a dad and watch his son strive from the stands. But he said he's found a good balance between dad and coach.
"As a dad, sometimes I feel like I miss out on just watching him," Dowdy said. "But I do that late night, when I'm watching the film. I'll be like, 'Oh, that was a good play.'" I really try to treat everybody the same so I don't get many of those proud papa moments. But that's OK, I love my job and I love having him play for me."
The coach certainly loved the way his son played defense during KC's 54-53 win over defending 1-5A champion Farmington on Saturday, in which Dowdy and his teammates tightened up their defense after a rough first quarter and propelled KC to rip off a 14-0 run in the second.
Late in the back-and-forth game, Dowdy stole the ball on defense and made what would be the game-winning layup. After the Scorpions missed a 3-point attempt on the next possession, Dowdy was fouled seconds later. He missed the one-and-one free-throw opportunity, but made up for it by stealing the ball from Farmington's Nick Granger and running out the clock to seal the win for the Broncos.
"I missed the front end of the one-and-one free throw, so I was like, 'Crap, I gotta get back on defense,'" Dowdy said. "So I hustled back, and (Granger) did a push dribble to get out in front. I noticed that, so I tipped it, then went around and stole it from him."
While Dowdy's production has been massive, he means more than stats to his team. The coach said his son has gradually embraced the leadership role as he's aged, and on top of that, he has had a calming effect on his teammates.
"He's one of those guys where the other players are more confident when he's on the court — even when he's not doing anything, kind of like a security blanket type thing," Coach Dowdy said. "I mean, obviously his stats are really good, but I think even bigger than that, for the team, is just having him out there and giving the other guys confidence."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Bryson Dowdy
1. Favorite athlete?
2. Favorite team?
3. Favorite food?
4. Favorite subject in school?
5. Least favorite subject?
6. Favorite thing to watch on Netflix?
7. Biggest fear?
8. Do you play any other sports?
"Football and baseball."
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"Probably buy an indoor basketball court, that'd be pretty cool."
10. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
"Not really, I shoot around before the game."