BALTIMORE — Elijah Bryant isn’t known for being the most talkative individual.
The Elon University freshman guard didn’t say much when prompted, either. But Bryant’s rare admission before Elon’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament game on Friday, March 6 turned out to be the start of a rather loud statement he would make.
“I would definitely say a little bit of nerves coming into this big stadium,” Bryant said. “Going out, I tried to talk a lot during warmups. I talked a lot with my guys to calm me down and make it feel more like home.”
Bryant, named CAA Rookie of the Year on Thursday, looked at ease while scoring 14 points in the first half and finishing with 21 in Elon’s 74-69 overtime victory over Towson, which sends the Phoenix to a noon matchup with No. 1 College of William & Mary on Saturday.
The 6-foot, 4-inch bull of a player was 3-for-5 from 3 in the first half and finished at a 7-for-16 clip from the field without having a turnover. It’s the first time he’s played for more than 17 minutes without being charged with a turnover.
“Elijah’s big time,” Elon senior guard Austin Hamilton said. “He wouldn’t have gotten Rookie of the Year for no reason. You can see that look in his eyes, he’s hungry for the ball. We got it to him, and he made some big shots.”
Bryant was averaging 13.9 points per game entering Friday, shooting 37.7 percent from the field and grabbing 4.2 rebounds per game. He beat out University of Delaware’s Kory Holden by five votes in the tally for Rookie of the Year.
In addition to that, Bryant was named All-CAA Third Team.
“I put the award to my teammates,” Bryant said. “Without them, I couldn’t have done it.”
Against Towson, Bryant took no-pass shots on consecutive possessions early on — and made both. He drained a 3-pointer with about 30 seconds on the shot clock, and followed that up with a step-back fade in the lane.
Late in the first half, he made two 3s, the first being from the corner while the shot clock buzzer sounded.
“You never know how anybody’s going to react to the big stage,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said. “I didn’t see nervousness (from Bryant). I think he feeds off his teammates. He was really, really good at times.”
In Elon’s two previous games against Towson — both losses — Bryant scored a total of 23 points while going 8-for-27 from the field.
That was different on Friday, as the Tigers struggled to find answers for him at times when he’d drive through the lane or calmly hit a 3 as the shot clock wound down.
“My teammates have confidence in me, so that helps a lot,” Bryant said.