We will: Jibri Bryan Tribute


(Photo taken by Geovic Jadol).

Justin Baxley, Sports Editor

As the Sports Editor, I feel it is my duty to write this piece — albeit with a heavy heart. I would like to take this opportunity and use my platform to speak to his family, friends and teammates.

To the Bryan family, I can’t even begin to understand the pain you must be feeling. I know that this is a trying time for your family. I would like to offer my sincerest prayers and condolences for your loss. I would also like to thank you. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to borrow your son for a while and allowing us to know him. The chance to see him make an impact on and off the court is something that I will never forget. So for that, I thank you.

To his friends, while I claim to be a friend, I wasn’t with him on his walk everyday. And I had only known him for a short amount of time. I know you all are also hurting at this time. Losing a friend is one of the hardest things for us to have to endure as young people. During this time, you will and should lean on one another to get through. Share your memories, and keep Jibri in your hearts. I know you will.

To his teammates, guys, I can’t even imagine how trying this is for you to deal with and still have to play basketball. But it was what Jibri loved. I have no doubt you will play for him. Jibri was a brother to all of you, and he loved you all very much. Those times that you spent with him on the court, traveling on a bus, in the library studying together, or in the dorm just chilling will be moments that you can carry with you forever. I know you will. Jibri loved basketball. So you had a bond with him that no one else has. Cherish that.

Now I would like to share more of how I knew Jibri and the impact he has made on me.

My job allows me to write about sports and the athletes that play the game. By doing so I am constantly building relationships with the athletes around this campus — many of whom I consider friends now.

I was sitting in class when news broke of a shooting at the Flash Foods near campus. When I got the call late Tuesday night that it was Jibri Bryan who had been shot, I went numb.

Jibri is one of those athletes that I call a friend. My relationship with Jibri, however, is different from almost every other athlete because I knew him in three different ways.

The first was as a fan. Before I ever entered the world of writing, I had the chance to watch Jibri play.  His defensive intensity and his knack to hit the big shot at the right moment was second to none. His demeanor, in his daily life or in a game, was that of a silent leader who seemed calm in the biggest moments.

The second was as a journalist. I have covered Mercer men’s basketball for a little over a year now. As a journalist I watch the games in a different way from the ordinary fan. I think in terms of putting the game into words or telling the story of the player and his life. It  allowed me a little more access to the team. I got to know the guys a little more and become close friends with some. One of my favorite parts of sitting on press row is the ability to give a fist bump to all the players. I remember Jibri brought along his son to the games, holding him in his arms and taking him around Hawkins Arena.

That leads me to the last part — Jibri Bryan was my friend. It was something that was fairly recent, maybe even within the last couple months. He would come in the library and see his friend Mr. Gordon at the front desk where I work. While, Gordon would get Jibri a handful of candy, I would to talk with him about classes, movies and of course, basketball. He was soft spoken and mild mannered. I quickly noticed how respectful he was of anyone and everyone. “Yes sir,” and “no ma’am,” were instilled into his vocabulary. I remember asking him if Coach Hoffman had settled on a starting lineup. Jibri still wasn’t sure who Hoffman would name with the season fast approaching. Jibri Bryan walked out as a starter on opening night of his senior season.

In my first year as Sports Editor, I feel that I have brought good stories to our readers. One regret I will always have is not getting to bring you Jibri Bryan’s story told through his own words. The idea was always tossed around, but I never fully committed to getting it done. It is something that I want to personally apologize for. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and we all would probably do a lot of things differently. This is one of those things where I lost not only an athlete that I had the pleasure of covering, but a friend.

Jibri will be remembered for many things in his life. Most will say for being a basketball player. But he was so much more: a leader, a friend, a teammate, a brother, a significant other, a son, and most of all a father to a little boy who wanted to be just like Jibri. That is the legacy that Jibri Bryan leaves behind —one of a tremendous person who just happened to play basketball.

Over the next few days and weeks we will all begin the grieving process, and it will not be easy. Mercer is like a family, and it really feels like I’ve lost a family member. It’s important for us as students, faculty and staff to come together in the face of this awful tragedy. As Mercerians, I know we will. We will for Jibri.