Men’s basketball players speak for first time about Jibri Bryan’s death

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Men’s basketball players speak for first time about Jibri Bryan’s death

Mercer basketball remembers Jibri Bryan by placing his jersey and shoes on the bench during his vigil Wednesday night. Photo by Hayes Rule.

Mercer basketball remembers Jibri Bryan by placing his jersey and shoes on the bench during his vigil Wednesday night. Photo by Hayes Rule.

Mercer basketball remembers Jibri Bryan by placing his jersey and shoes on the bench during his vigil Wednesday night. Photo by Hayes Rule.

Mercer basketball remembers Jibri Bryan by placing his jersey and shoes on the bench during his vigil Wednesday night. Photo by Hayes Rule.

Justin Baxley and Hayes Rule, Staff

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Seven Mercer basketball players and head coach Bob Hoffman spoke to media Wednesday night after the vigil held for Jibri Bryan in Hawkins Arena. It was the first time players spoke to the media since Bryan was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon at the Flash Foods gas station on the corner of Forsyth and College streets. The following are quotes from each interview.

Sophomore guard Jordan Strawberry:

“Being together is the most important thing for us to deal with something like this. That’s probably the most important thing that’s going to help us get through this tough time.”

“He always kept me laughing. Something he always did was push me. As a freshman coming in, he always pushed me to be great – a great player. So I think his encouragement, him in the locker room just being a great team leader for us, was something special.”

“He just had that grit to him. He was that senior who’s been here a long time. He’s been here and done this and done that — been in those tough situations. So that’s something we’ll definitely be missing from him going forward.”

“I think playing 2K (is something I’ll miss). That’s something, we really did play a lot of that. Basketball 2K video games; that’s something we did a lot together… He liked playing with the Warriors.”

“Last year after we had lost to Furman in the SoCon Tournament, he told me that to keep working hard, and I’ll be a great player… That words of encouragement really was a moment I’ll cherish with him forever.”

“He was definitely like a brother figure to us, because he was playing the same game we were playing. But also, he’s kind of like a father figure because he’s been there through those tough times going with Coach.”
 

Redshirt sophomore forward Desmond Ringer:

“Toughest thing is just knowing he’s not going to be there the next day we wake up. Every day, I would at least talk to Jibri; he would lift me up about something. If I was going through something he would lift me up. If I had a question, he was always there. Just knowing he’s not going to be there is the toughest thing – not only for me but for all of us.”

“I feel like that’s all we have (is to lean on each other as teammates). That’s what Jibri would want us to do – to stay close to each other, grow on each other, learn from each other, because that’s what we did for him. That’s what we got from him.”

“I had a feeling it was Jibri’s, but there’s a million white Monte Carlo’s down here in Macon. We were hoping it wasn’t, but it turned out to be him.”

 

Freshman guard Ethan Stair:

“We’ve always been a close group, so we’re just going to keep it that way.”

“He was always a guy to come and correct me and help me out with where I was with some of the classes or off-the-court stuff. He was kind of a mentor for me.”

 

Freshman froward Cory Kilby:

“I was actually out of town when I heard. So when I got the call, I immediately came back home to be with the team.”

“Jibri is probably the best leader I’ve ever been around.”

“Jibri was one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. All he did was joke and have a smile on his face.”

“How I will remember Jibri was when it was just him and me on the practice court.”

 

Sophomore guard Tyre Moore:

“Jibri was one of the highest character people I ever knew. Every day he worked to make himself a better person.”

“He was one of the best people I ever knew. If I can be anything like Jibri the rest of my life, I’m going to be a better person.”

“The games don’t compare to Jibri’s life.”

“I want people to remember Jibri as one of the nicest people you will ever meet in your life.”

“He was at Mercer to give his son a better life.”

 

Freshman guard Jaylen Stowe:

“Jibri would want us to be strong. That’s what we are trying to do: to stay strong for him and his family.”

“He was kind of like that big brother. Even if I messed up or something he would always be there to help me.”

“He was a true leader — a true teammate. He was always smiling no matter what. He kept us focused; even when he was out he was always with us.”

 

Sophomore forward Stephon Jelks:

“Jibri was more of a brother to me than anything. He taught me more than just basketball — just more about life.”

“We got to win this championship for him.”

“Me and Jibri just had a thing where he would come over and play video games. Just hang out and talk about life. Off the court, it was never really about basketball.”

“Just remember Jibri as a free spirited, loving person. Any time you see Jibri after a game you would just see him loving on his son. That is one of the most precious things I could say about Jibri is that he really loved his kid.”

 

Head Coach Bob Hoffman: 

“My wife, the first thing that came to her mind was the last game that he played. He hit some free throws, and little (Jibri) was in front of him, walking — instead of (Jibri Sr.) holding him — slapping fives, walking around the building. And (Jibri Sr.) was so proud of him that day. He was so proud of his son, and we’re proud of Jibri.”

“For me, it’s not so much for him, but it’s all about giving all you have because you don’t know what tomorrow holds. That’s the message, is, you have to give all you’ve got every day. (You) never know what that next day may be all about. Be grateful for the opportunities you have in front of you when they are there, and that’s what we’re going to approach every day, every game, the rest of the way.”

“Probably just about three or four weeks ago, I don’t remember the exact time… He came over to me and thought he was done – that he wasn’t going to play anymore. His knee was giving out, and he was telling me how much it meant to him to be a part of the team and the program. He was thanking me for believing in him, and I was thanking him for believing in me, and I said, ‘Don’t give up on yourself yet. Maybe you can help us the second part of the season; maybe you could do some low impact things.” And he said, ‘OK, Coach, I will do that.’ And we had a big hug and teared up a little bit right over here. That was a special moment.”

“Our team is built on more than basketball, and it has always been. It’s about relationships, and it comes to the forefront when you’re dealing with something as catastrophic as we are right now. Our guys are just hanging on to each other right now and believing in each other and looking to each other and to their faith.”

“(I’ll remember) just his infectious smile. Can light up a room more than anybody else. How he was always worried about me, asking how I was doing. No matter whether he was playing or not, he was for us. He was never against us. He was always for us. He was the epitome of a team guy.”

“He knew last year, we weren’t to the level in everything we wanted to do as a program and a team, and I think he just continued to try to push us — push the guys to be better. I’m just grateful I got to know him and be a part of his life. He made a difference in my life, and I’m grateful for the moments we had.”

“His perseverance was amazing and what he was able to battle through and overcome, and his willingness to work with Brad (Crowe) over and over again — our trainer. His family, fantastic people, they were a joy to be a part of, and they’ll always be a part of the Mercer family.”

“He just kept trying to find ways to help our team; he was a team guy. He wanted us to win. He was excited for our guys being successful, even when he wasn’t getting to play himself this year.”

“(The relationship) got closer and closer as we went through so many struggles with his injuries. Just building how hard he worked to get back and him graduating. He graduated the year we went to the tournament; he was one of eight guys who graduated that spring.”

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