Currently, Newman University has not one, not two but four connections to the NBA. This includes three student-athletes who have family members in the league, as well as a graduate student assistant coach for the men’s basketball team, whose dad is a former NBA stand-out.
Lee “Poe” Bryant and Mark Bryant
Lee “Poe” Bryant’s father, Mark Bryant, played in the NBA from 1988 to 2003 and has been coaching
ever since. Today, Mark is an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons.
Bryant, who was raised in Houston but moved around a lot because of his dad’s job, completed his undergraduate studies in business at Bethel College before traveling overseas to Bulgaria, where he played professional basketball himself for eight months. While there, Russia invaded Ukraine, and Bryant remembers hearing jets flying low over where he lived and rattling homes.
“We take a lot of things for granted in the United States, so being out there was really eye opening,”
Then, Bryant got hurt and had to return stateside.
Bryant always knew he wanted to earn his master’s degree, so he began looking for graduate assistant coaching jobs, which led him to Newman. He’s expected to graduate in May 2024 with a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in leadership.
After, Bryant is considering playing overseas again, but his end goal is to coach in the NBA, just like the man who set the path before him.
“Looking at my dad is seeing all the work behind the scenes that he put into [the sport],” Bryant said. “It really manifested itself in me.”
Stevie Smith and Keith Smith
Like Bryant, Stevie Smith’s father, Keith Smith, is a former NBA player with the Milwaukee Bucks. Smith explained his dad played during the golden era of basketball — in the mid 1980s — when he was in the mix with players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Smith himself grew up in Seattle, where he attended Rainier Beach High School. He then went to junior college at the College of Southern Idaho and developed a real love of basketball, especially when his team made it to the national championship. Then, after a stint at Abilene Christian University, Smith transferred to Newman.
“Coach Allen reached out, and he was a very genuine person, as is the coaching staff here,” Smith said. “When I came on my visit, there was just a good energy about people in this community and it felt really inviting.”
At Newman, Smith studies communication and hopes to someday be a film writer.
He shared that basketball has always played a huge role in his life.
“It runs in my blood,” he said. “I started playing basketball whenever I gained consciousness. There was always a ball near me.”
In addition to his dad playing at the highest level, Smith’s brother was one of the best players in Seattle throughout high school and went on to play at the University of Oregon and Pepperdine.
After he graduates, Smith hopes to take his basketball career as far as it can go and play professionally.
Jacob Joe and Derrick Isaiah Joe
Joe shared that he and his brother are best friends and Facetime every day. It’s his brother who taught him to work hard, focus and put his mind to something. Joe is incredibly proud of his brother, too.
“It’s meant a lot to me, and it’s still hard to believe that it’s real that he made it because we used to talk about it as kids all the time,” he said.
Joe, who came to Newman because of a basketball scholarship and studies business management, added that basketball has always been the highlight in his and his brother’s life.
“Basketball has been the center point of my life, my entire life,” he said. “Growing up, me and my brother were always at the gym and had a court in our backyard. Some days our dad would just tell us to go out there and make a hundred shots or whatever.”
Joe hopes to one day follow in his big brother’s footsteps and play in the NBA before starting a business of his own.
Kyra Grimshaw and Jalen Brunson
Finally, Newman women’s basketball player Kyra Grimshaw’s cousin, Jalen Brunson, currently plays for the New York Knicks.
“It’s awesome that I have been able to watch him grow from when he just started playing ball to him now being a professional,” she said. “We both idolize our parents (his father and my mother, who are siblings). They both once were Division 1 and 2 basketball stars, and my uncle later played in the NBA himself.”
Grimshaw added, “So the love for the game has always run through the family, but it grew even more as Jalen and I followed in their footsteps and pushed each other in different ways
to be the best we could be. It’s so exciting being there for one another
as success shines.”