A.J. English, Michael Bryson confident in NBA dreams despite mid-major label


The Patriot League is not considered a hotbed for NBA talent, but that conference produced the NBA's Most Improved Player in Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.

After winning the conference's Player of the Year twice and leading Lehigh to an upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, McCollum was taken 10th overall by the Blazers in 2013.

Iona's A.J. English and UC Santa Barbara's Michael Bryson won't be top-10 picks, but McCollum's success — after struggles and injuries plagued his first two seasons as a pro — shows that good players can be found outside of major programs.  

As far as offense goes, English dominated the MAAC. He led the league last season in points, points per game, three-pointers made and attempted, assists, assists per game and for good measure, he also had the highest player efficiency rating in the conference.

English knows the transition won't be easy, but it's a challenge he's ready to accept.

"I've always had a lot of confidence in myself," English said. "I'm from right down the street in Delaware. You have to have confidence coming out of a small state like that so I just try to keep it up."

In leading Iona to the MAAC championship and a first-round loss to Georges Niang's Iowa State squad in the NCAA Tournament, English earned workouts like the one at PCOM on Tuesday.

Bryson has gotten these workouts for one reason: his shot.

Bryson will shoot from anywhere on the floor. He shot 38 percent from three last season, led the Mountain West with 18 points per game and finished third in the conference in field goal percentage despite being a 6-foot-4 off guard. 

He showed off a little bit of that skill for the Sixers on Tuesday. While spending four years at a school like UC Santa Barbara may not seem like a path to the NBA, Bryson is glad that he took that route.

"I think that being able to have four years in college allowed me to really hone my skills," Bryson said. "Be able to see what I can do, what I can't do. Being able to hide my weaknesses and really flourish with my strengths. The social and the media aspect are some of things you need to learn, you have to develop. It was a really fun experience for me being able to play four years at [UC Santa Barbara]."

Bryson has enjoyed the draft circuit, which has included stops with his hometown Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryson played with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's son, Maxwell, last season. Bryson may be an under-the-radar prospect, but he enjoyed his time in Philly with the Sixers' staff.

"It's been a really fun time," Bryson said. "Those two workouts (in Sacramento and Los Angeles) were extremely fun. This workout, [Philadelphia's] a beautiful city, beautiful gym. The atmosphere here is extremely go-lucky, that's something I really enjoy."

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