By Greg Stevenson
If you ever find yourself at Sojka Pavilion before a men’s basketball game, there is one thing you are guaranteed to see—guard Bryson Johnson ’13 crack one of his ear-to-ear grins.
“I have always had fun playing basketball and it has been something that I have enjoyed my whole life,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to be anything but happy when playing, to be honest. I am very fortunate to be able to play at a school like this and if I didn’t enjoy it, I think I would be taking my situation for granted. I don’t want that to be the case.”
By tip-off, though, his demeanor changes, and his game face, one that exudes focus, comes out. Behind that pre-game smile and mid-game concentration on details is one of the Patriot League’s deadliest shooters from outside.
During the Orange and Blue’s run to the NCAA tournament last season, Johnson was an integral member of the Bison starting five, on the floor to drain important three-pointers down the stretch of games. His teammates and coaches had a lot of trust in him, and the statistics back it up.
Johnson had the highest shooting percentage from outside the arc in the Patriot League during the 2010-2011 season by over five percent while also attempting the most shots. Starting all 34 of the Orange and Blue’s contests last year, Johnson finished second on the team in points per game with 11.7.
“I don’t know if there is anything that makes me good at this role other than just trying to do it as best I can and help our team win games,” Johnson said when asked about his role as the outside shooter for the Bison.
This season, though, has gone a little differently. Opponents have started to key in on him defensively, and the shooting lanes that were open last season have been completely clogged up this year. His scoring average has dipped below 10 points per game and he is not hitting three-pointers at quite the same efficiency as last season.
“This season, teams have been a little more prepared for me and have been doing a good job running me off the three-point line and trying to make me do other things,” Johnson said. “I just have to do a better job adjusting and the shots will go down.”
But Johnson has managed to shoot nearly 40 percent, good enough for 13th in the conference.
In last week’s victory over Holy Cross, Johnson knocked in a three-pointer as time ran out in the first half to give the Orange and Blue a double-digit lead. It was all the momentum the Bison needed, and they ended up running away from the Crusaders by a 34-point margin. Ten times this season, Johnson has scored in double-figures, including back-to-back 20 point games in the Legends Classic back in November.
Johnson, now in his third season, found the transition to college life to be smooth since his hometown, Pictou, Nova Scotia, had the same small-town feel as his home as Lewisburg. It was his teammates and the coaching staff, though, that really made him feel welcome and at home at the University.
“I came to Bucknell because I had a great relationship with the coaches while they were recruiting me,” Johnson said. “On my visit I really liked the players and the whole atmosphere of the school. I really like the small school feel of this place and really getting to know people on campus. The small town feel also reminds me a lot of home which is good because I always miss being home when I’m away. And I love playing basketball here because of my teammates. We are a pretty close team and it’s always fun to play basketball with those you consider as family.”
Even though Johnson did not take the traditional route to the University, coming from a small town in Canada, this sharpshooter has hit his stride and found a role that suits him. With the team headed towards another Patriot League Championship and berth in the NCAA tournament, there’s plenty of reason for Johnson and the rest of the Bison to smile.