Kris Bryant, a first-year starter? It still seems hard to believe.
First-year starters aren't supposed to dominate games, especially in basketball counties as tough as Howard. But Bryant, a 6-foot, junior forward from Mount Hebron who is the Howard County Sun's Player of the Year, did exactly that.
After spending her first season as an inconsistent, part-time player, Bryant sharpened her skills during an intensive off-season. She turned into the Vikings' top player.
Bryant controlled the inside for Hebron (21-1) all year, averaging 14.6 points a game on a school-record 56 percent shooting, while grabbing a team-high 10.2 rebounds a game.
In eight of Hebron's 22 regular-season games, she hit double figures in points and rebounds. She was a huge reason the Vikings were able to go undefeated against the county for the ninth time in Coach Dave Greenberg's 14 seasons.
"You're talking about a kid who is very physical inside, but who can also get up and down the floor real well and can hit the jumper from the outside. That's a pretty good package," Greenberg said.
"It's easy to forget this was her first year as a starter," he added. "By the end of last season, we saw the potential, but we never knew how good she would be."
The Vikingsbegan to find out in December, in a 52-47 victory over then top-ranked Western. That game put Hebron atop The Baltimore Sun metropolitan area rankings, a position the Vikings held for the rest of the regular season. Bryant scored 11 points against Western and pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds.
She followed that with a 22-point, nine-rebound performance in a 60-41 victory over eventual 4A champion Old Millin the title game of the IAABO tournament. And once Hebron rolled into the county schedule, Bryant provided the perfect compliment to theoutside shooting of teammates Erica McCauley and Emily Yanero.
Bryant, whose repertoire included scoop shots, hook shots from each side and tenacious offensive rebounding to go with her power moves inside, improved steadily in January. She then dominated the county down the stretch in February.
She wound up the regular season with four straight double-doubles, three of them against Hebron's toughest opponents. Bryant had 15 points and 13 rebounds against Hammond, 14 points and 11 rebounds against Howard, and finished the season with a 21-point, 14-rebound show against Glenelg.