‘I realized my journey wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows’: Villanova’s Bryan Antoine has remained positive through it all
The former McDonald's All-American, whose 2 1/2 seasons at Villanova have been marred by a series of injuries, has recently worked his way into Jay Wright's rotation.
In high school, Bryan Antoine was the definition of the highly recruited star-athlete on the fast track to superstardom.
But in some stories, an unexpected detour gets in the way of the superstar’s rise. In Antoine’s case, it was a series of injuries.
In May 2019, shortly after arriving at Villanova, Antoine underwent surgery on his shoulder. That kept him out of the rotation for most of his freshman year. The following year, he suffered another injury to that same shoulder, cutting his sophomore year short. Then, at the start of this season, he suffered a patella tendon injury, which kept him out for the first 10 games. To date, Antoine, a junior, has appeared in only 31 games during his entire Villanova career.
» READ MORE: No. 14 Villanova hangs on against Xavier
When Antoine signed with Villanova, he was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. Oozing with promise, the 6-foot-5 guard was viewed as a legitimate NBA prospect. At the time, admiration focused largely on Antoine’s freak-like athleticism. A 2,500-point scorer in high school, he averaged 21 points per game his senior year and alongside the Charlotte Hornets’ Scottie Lewis, led the Ranney School to its first-ever NJSIAA championship.
Just a few months later though, Antoine had to adjust to not being allowed to touch a basketball.
“Not being able to be on the court, or shoot, or dribble, being told that I can’t do this or it’ll hurt even more, that’s probably the toughest thing I had to go through,” Antoine said.
Villanova coach Jay Wright has watched Antoine’s journey and seen the way heartbreak has interlaced with each successive injury. However, what emerged from Antoine during this time was a positive spirit and relentless perseverance.
“We watch him come in every day after going through treatment,” Wright said. “Come back from practice, come back from the shoulder, and be so excited. Then the knee. And just be so depressed and then come back the next day for treatment. And then come into practice and be just committed to doing whatever we need.”
Now, fans are finally starting to get a glimpse of what the talented Antoine can do on the court. Since returning Dec. 17 against Creighton, Antoine has appeared in five games, averaging just over 15 minutes a game. Wright noted that what Antoine went through has been a life lesson, and has contributed to his playing with “maturity and intelligence.”
“It’s just really been an inspiration to all of us,” Wright said. “I think he’s going to be a really successful man when he finishes playing basketball because of what he went through here.”
Now that he has overcome these injuries, Antoine is proving himself as a contributing member of the rotation. In his five appearances this season, Antoine has established himself as an energetic and unselfish role player. This was on display against Seton Hall on New Year’s Day, when Antoine tallied seven points, four rebounds, and a block in just 16 minutes. Overall, he’s averaging just 2.4 ppg but noted that his improvement on the defensive side has been his biggest contribution to his team.
“I feel like it changed me, but not for the worse,” Antoine said. “When I first came here and I was out for five or six months, when it came to off-the- court stuff, I was doing a lot more lifting and I was more focused on that. It kind of shaped me into the person that I am.”
Despite the long battle with injuries that continued to pile up, Antoine does not see himself as a victim, and this may be why he is able to easily jump into the game when called upon. Crediting his family, teammates, and coaches for helping him through his journey, Antoine regards it as an important part of his basketball career.
“Obviously I wanted to be out there to play,” Antoine said. “But I realized my journey wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows. So I realized I’d rather stick through and tough it out than have that bad mindset going into it.”