Johnny O'Bryant is on the J.O.B.
June 11, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
At 6-10 Johnny O'Bryant, a member of the inaugural USA Basketball Men's U16 National Team, stands out in a crowd. Whether he's in his hometown of Clevelend, Miss., with a population of 12,447 (as of July 2007), playing hoops in the gym against guys twice his age at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., or walking down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, O'Bryant would get noticed.
A member of his school's honor roll, O'Bryant aspires to someday own his own business. Maybe a restaurant along Highway 61 in Cleveland. Perhaps another business of some sort outside of his hometown. Or even as an owner of his own fashion line. A self-styled man, O'Bryant is a little-old school when it comes to fashion. He's not into the baggy look that is sported by a lot of people these days. He likes things fitted and looking sharp.
Yes, O'Bryant makes people notice him. And it's not just due to his height. The rising junior at Eastside High School, who sports nearly shoulder length dreadlocks, has a game that's becoming as dazzling as his pearly whites.
A 2009 all-state honorable mention after his sophomore season, O'Bryant played on his school's varsity squad as an eighth-grader and was one of only 19 players in the nation invited to attend last weekend's USA Basketball Developmental National Team training camp for top 16-and-unders. A hard worker on the offensive and defensive glass, O'Bryant is quick to beat opponents to the boards and has earned the nickname J.O.B. for his hustle on the court.
But he's not all hoops, all the time. He talks about his hometown with pride, and his family and friends and everyone else back in Cleveland who supports himin his quest for gold. And those people back in Cleveland? They noticed him first and know there's much more to the J.O.B. than meets the eye.
USA Basketball.com caught up with Johnny after practice on Thursday. Read what he had to say!
How do you think the team is coming together over the last few days?
We've really been fighting through soreness and everything. As far as chemistry, we're starting to come together. We're starting to bond as a team.
Tell me about your daily team meetings:
They are really good to help keep us focused. They tell us what we're going to work on in practice that day. Then we go out and work on it.
What did coach Showalter talk to you about today?
He was telling us about our execution and explaining to us what we messed up on the (scrimmage) yesterday. We watched some film, and we're going to try and come out and correct it today.
Before the video, you guys talked about what it takes to be a team. What are some of the things you talked about?
Caring and teamwork â€¦ there were like 15 things that you need to do to win the gold medal.
Do you know anything about the international game?
No, ma'am. I watched it on TV and played it on my video games, but I never played for a USA team or actually been in a real life situation (with the international rules).
There's a lot of things. The key's wider, and I like the wider key. There are a lot of advantages. The key's wider so you can post up. It makes post players a threat. The ball's smaller also. It kind of affects the shot a little bit.
Where in the world is Cleveland, Mississippi?
(laughs) Well, when everyone thinks of Mississippi, they think of Jackson. So, it's a couple hours from Jackson, it's north.
Are they proud of you in Cleveland?
Yes, ma'am. I've been getting a lot of phone calls. The news stations have been calling me. And my coach, he came out here to support me for a few days. He texted me earlier and told me that my community's proud of me and to represent them well.
You're the youngest of three siblings. Have you gotten any advice from them regarding this trip?
They just tell me to be respectful and represent us.
What about your parents, were they excited for you?
My mom, she's like my biggest fan. She's really excited. Especially because she did a lot to get me ready for this, and she's been calling me ever since.
Who was more excited when the letter of invitation from USA Basketball came in the mail?
My mom, probably. Because I didn't really understand what it was at first.
After basketball what kind of business would you like to start up?
I want to open up a store or a restaurant or something. I don't know yet exactly what, I just want to own my own business.
Tell me about your interest in fashion design:
I like dressing up and putting things together, making me look cool.
Is it hard to shop for clothes because you're so big?
Not really, because I can go in the mall and see things in my size. My feet aren't that big either.
What's the style in Cleveland these days?
It depends on the person. I like to dress kind of small and tight, high-top shoes, kind of smaller clothes. Other people like baggy jeans and stuff.
You're on your school's honor roll. What's your favorite subject and why?
History. I just like learning about different cultures, what happened in the past and different people.
What's your favorite story from history?
Julius Caesar. He took a little bit of something and made a whole lot by being him and using his power.
What's the best thing about staying here at the U.S. Olympic Training Center?
It's like we have no parents, and we're being responsible for ourselves on our own.
Do you know any Spanish?
Me llamo Johnny. I know how to read some things, like if they were in a magazine or something.
Do you take your nickname J.O.B. to heart?
Yeah, a little bit. Because I'm trying to make basketball into a job.
Favorite Kool-Aid flavor: Blue.
That's not a flavor: (laughs) Ok, blueberry.
Favorite movie: Love and Basketball and He Got Game.
Favorite book: Cirque du Freak. I read it when I was in eighth grade, and it was about this vampire. I liked it.