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Bryant is back

The Energizer Bunny is still going and going for the USF men’s basketball team.

Given the nickname by former coach Seth Greenberg, Marlyn Bryant made his first appearance on the Sun Dome floor Tuesday after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Jan. 11 against Marquette.

Seven months after his injury, Bryant was running the floor, taking set shots and making sharp cuts without any pain during the team’s first individual workouts of the school year.

“Some moves are bothering me, but there was no pain I couldn’t handle,” Bryant said.

The 6-foot-3 junior guard was medically cleared to resume competitive play two weeks ago. He immediately took to the court and began training the following day.

“I’ve been playing for two weeks,” Bryant said. “I am at about 75 to 80 percent.”

The only sign that his knee affected his tremendous leaping ability — one that led to 360-degree dunks during games — was the absence of said dunks during drills. His partners during the drill, Jimmy Baxter and Sam Barber, also put down dunks sparingly.

His knee held strong, however, as he participated in sprints and shooting drills that involved quick cuts and strong layups to the basket.

“I know I can do it,” Bryant said. “It’s kind of like déjà vu. When I hurt my leg against Marquette I went up on two feet, so I’m kind of nervous.”

Bryant still showed signs of hop in his knees but remained cautious on everything where both his feet were planted.

While he hasn’t regained the endurance or speed that he had before his injury, Bryant looks well on the way to a total recovery due to weight training during the summer.

“Since summer school, I’ve been lifting weights trying to get it back right,” Bryant said. “This whole summer my goal was to get my leg stronger. I was doing extra things to come back 100 percent.”

Weights are not the only thing on which Bryant has had to work.

The junior swingman and the rest of the Bulls will be expected to hit the books harder this year than in the past.

New coach Robert McCullum has made it known only two days into the school year that they will be strict about attending class and earning better grades.

“Now, we have more trainers and people making sure everybody goes to class,” Bryant said. “It’s much more strict.”

The change in academic attitude resulted after Sheldon Franklin was ruled ineligible because of questionable SAT scores.

Later, sophomore Yusuf Baker was dismissed for not meeting academic standards.

“Sheldon Franklin’s was a situation nobody could control,” Bryant said. “With Yusuf, we were all down because he was like a best friend.”

The crackdown on studying has not discouraged the team, and Bryant said the Bulls still remain positive about the upcoming season.

“We are real excited about the new year,” Bryant said.

“We have a new coaching staff that is fun to be around.”