Bryson Spell. It is an honor and a privilege to write about one of Cape Henry Collegiate’s all time best basketball players! I first met Bryson 14 years ago. His Dad, Ken Spell, was the Head Coach of the Dolphin Girls Basketball Team. Bryson was probably 4 or 5 years old, but his demeanor and stature made you think he could be 10 or 11 years old. You could already see he was the epitome of the perfect big brother, and family was his compass. You could also see his love for basketball, his future Division I body, and his respect for all that surrounds athletics. Bryson grew up exposed to the intricate layers of basketball, as his Dad played at Elon University, and has to be one of the best minds of the game I have ever been associated with over many years of hoops. This rich history of athleticism, his solid base of faith and family, and a work ethic second to none, produced an incredibly talented basketball player, but an even better human being.
Mind, Body, & Soul. We all talk about it, but are often reminded of the areas we need to improve in order to achieve ideal equilibrium in all of these areas. Bryson has evolved into all of these with grace, focus, and hard work. One of Bryson’s favorite quotes comes from NBA’s Damian Lillard, “In order to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of no one”. I have often said, those athletes I have to turn the lights on for, unlock a gym, or often find training on their own, succeed. These things have to be important to the individual, not their friends, family, coach, or someone they’re simply trying to impress. Yes, Bryson is blessed with a 6’9” frame, and the resources to learn every mechanic of shooting a basketball, moving without the ball, defending efficiently in the front and backcourt, and all of the necessary skills it takes to play collegiate basketball. But, the bottom line is, he put the work in and it has been an absolute pleasure watching his game improve and his confidence grow. He is equally gifted with his back to basket, or facing the rim. One of the prettiest shots in the game, and the “give me the ball” look required to play at the Division I level.
The pandemic was difficult, to say the least, for the Class of 2021. Those aspiring to play collegiate sports, had to endure a greater challenge. Transfer portals, additional red shirt years for existing college athletes, and just the task of finding space to train, brought on the most arduous athletic season in high school sports. But, somehow, you know the student athletes who will be able to endure and thrive through any conditions. Bryson Spell is one of those athletes. Adapt, adjust, and overcome. COVID-19 tested all of those cliche athletic prerequisites. Bryson notes the college decision process was hectic, and the ability to visit schools was limited at best due to the pandemic. Va Tech, ODU, the University of Richmond, and Elon, to name a few, were all in communication of interest with Bryson. His approach was proactive and understood the importance to self advocate in reaching out to coaches and sending highlight video. He first committed to play basketball at the University of Cincinnati; but, after a coaching staff change for the Bearcats, Bryson found a home at Liberty University under the helm of Head Coach Ritchie McKay. Bryson signed his National Letter of Intent in the spring of his senior year, and he and his family’s expressions of content, excitement, and peace were palpable. It was a happy day for the Spell family and for the CHC Athletic Community, who adore Bryson Spell. “Coach McKay made me want to come to Liberty after my first conversation with him. Their plan for me and the vision they have as a program was something that I admired after getting to know the program. I am so looking forward to playing for a program that is team oriented and for a Coach that has 100% confidence in me and my ability. I will miss all of my friends and the great people who have helped me along the way”, Bryson remarks. So, for the many underclassmen aspiring to play at the next level, patience and perseverance played out in Bryson’s favor under some of the most challenging circumstances. Good things do come to those who trust their instincts, and Bryson’s balance of mind, body, and soul, seem to have landed him exactly where he should be.
Bryson’s undefeated senior season captured the Conference Invitational Tournament and the State Invitational Tournament. “Invitational” seems less in most traditional seasons, but in all of my athletic directing seasons, this athletic year was anything but “less”. It required playing and training in face coverings, games played and games canceled, abbreviated seasons, playing competitive games in quiet no spectator gyms, and a will to play like no other. We will soon be honoring the 2021 State Championship Boys Basketball Team with Championship rings and I hope the athletes will always look at their rings as an emblem of true perseverance. It will be a season we will never forget. The State Championship game was also a contest I will never forget. Midway through the first half, Bryson suffered a significant ankle injury, and had to exit the game. After a quick evaluation and taping from the Certified Athletic Trainer, I witnessed Bryson by himself attempting to run, jump, change directions. It was obvious the injury was painful, but there was also a look on his face, his high school career was not going to end with anything less than a state championship. He re-entered the game, and with the help of his talented teammates, CHC captured the school’s 3rd state championship. The swelling around his ankle witnessed after the game, speaks of his mind over matter resilience. And, this exceptional athlete with an exceptional mindset would finish his career with nothing less than a state title!
Bryson’s CHC Coaching Staff realized what a gift it was to have him on their roster. Assistant Lance Hurdle, “Kids like Bryson are one of the main reasons why I want to coach at Cape Henry Collegiate. He is a very genuine, authentic young man. Bryson shows up to work hard at practice and games every day, and leaves it all on the floor. He did his best to lead his team, and it was an honor and pleasure to coach him. He will do great things at the next level.” Coach Scott Clark, “It has been a privilege to see Byson develop from an 11 year old scrawny kid, into a legitimate Division I Athlete. He is an awesome young man from a great family, and one of the hardest working people I know. His work ethic, and his attitude will carry him beyond his goals. Nothing but love and respect for this young man.” Coach Phil Reichhoff adds, “ Bryson never takes a single rep off in the Fitness Center. I could always trust him to push as hard as he could. He leads by example with a calm confidence and his approach will benefit him beyond basketball. Bryson approaches life like a winner, and I am excited to cheer him on!”. Head Coach Mark Hall concludes, “Bryson was a big part of the team’s success this season. He averaged 19.45 ppg and 10 rebounds per game. Bryson has worked harder every year to build his skillset and is a natural leader on and off the court. He was a 2 year Captain and provided guidance and leadership for his peers. It was a joy to see him grow as a young man in our community and I know he will be successful wherever he goes in life. Bryson earned Co-MVP State Invitational Tournament honors, and demonstrated himself in many situations as a coach on the court”. Cape Henry Collegiate Basketball has enjoyed many successful seasons and has a rich history of athletes who played at the collegiate and professional level. The dynamic duo of Spell & Co-Captain Christian Moore was special way beyond their extraordinary basketball talents. On the backs of leaders, team success will prevail. Spell & Moore brought class and professionalism to the court every time they laced up their sneakers, and it is impossible to speak of one without the other. Something tells me, they both would agree.
As Bryson begins the next chapter of his academic and athletic pursuits this summer in Lynchburg, he says he has no regrets, and credits many who have helped him along the way. He plans to major in Business Administration and is looking forward to the regimen of a collegiate student athlete. “Mr. Rodgers Physics class taught me how to keep myself accountable in school; and, Tracey Pinkin’s anatomy class gave me the lessons about my body as an athlete and how to better prepare myself for games and practice”. Tracey reciprocates, “Bryson never backs down from an academic challenge. He is a hard worker and a great kid!” He enjoyed being a proud member of the Breakfast Club which would work out in the early hours prior to class. Bryson also shared, “Coach Lance Hurdle & Phil Reichhoff were instrumental throughout my last two years at Cape Henry and I will forever be grateful for them.” CHC will be forever grateful to you, Bryson. Your years in our hallways and on the court were nothing short of phenomenal. We wish you the best as a Liberty Flame, and I know many Dolphin basketball enthusiasts will be keeping up with your continued success!