Marlyn Bryant must shiver at those three letters. After all, those letters nearly ended his basketball career.
A 6-foot-3 senior guard on the USF basketball team, Bryant has been through what most athletes have nightmares about. Over the past three seasons, he has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in each knee, and he did so almost exactly a year apart.
On Jan. 11, 2003, with the Bulls playing at Marquette, Bryant fell to the hardwood in pain.
“When it happened, I was just on the ground thinking, ‘Oh no,'” Bryant said.
Marquette’s doctor told Bryant he had torn the MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his right knee, an injury that would have sidelined Bryant for only two or three months. But upon his return to Tampa, a local doctor told Bryant he had actually torn his ACL, the ligament that connects the upper leg to the lower leg bone. Bryant would miss at least six months.
One of USF’s most explosive players — not to mention its most exciting dunker — had been lost for the season.
“I got really down on myself,” Bryant said.
But Bryant — who ran track four years while at Leesburg High — would stay persistent in his rehab and would battle back in time to make the 2003-04 season.
Then, during a routine inbounds play during a January practice in 2004, Bryant’s left knee buckled.
“It didn’t feel like the first time,” Bryant said. “I was only on the ground for a couple seconds. I got up and started walking. The first time I couldn’t walk, so I’m thinking it’s nothing.”
An MRI later showed that Bryant had in fact torn his ACL. Once more he would miss the rest of the season.
“It was devastating,” he said.
Anyone who has seen Bryant dunk must have wondered if he would ever again be capable of the same exciting moves he once was.
“I really thought that once I tore both of my knees, I would lose my explosiveness, and how high I could jump would decrease.”
Turns out Bryant was wrong. Since his surgeries, his vertical jump actually increased an inch, from 38 to 39.
“Just working on my legs all summer, lifting weights with them, it just made them stronger,” Bryant said.
If anyone knows that Bryant hasn’t lost his spark, it’s teammate Brian Swift, who is usually on the other end of Bryant’s spectacular alley-oops.
“I’m always looking to throw an alley-oop to him,” Swift said. “And he’s athletic enough to where I can just throw it up there and he can throw it down.”
But don’t get Bryant wrong — he’s good for more than a flashy dunk or two. One of the team’s most stout defenders, Bryant usually guards the opposition’s best player.
“I take pride in trying to shut that person down,” Bryant said. “That’s my goal, that’s the goal that coach set for me, and it’s what my teammates expect out of me.”
They also expect a tireless worker, whether he’s on the court or rehabbing a torn knee. They expect him to overcome obstacles.
For Bryant, that seems easy. He just jumps right over them.