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Bryce Elliott’s decision to play for dad coincides with Hudsonville’s tourney run

By: Steve Vedder, March 20, 2016, 4:28 pm

Hudsonville – It’s not as if Eric Elliott ever took his son’s plans for granted, but it seemed like a natural progression.

To Elliott, basketball was important enough for him to become one of Hope College’s all-time greats, to play professionally overseas and to become one of the top high school coaches in the Grand Rapids area at Hudsonville. While Elliott had no problem with whatever path his son Bryce eventually chose, it wouldn’t have surprised Elliott if by exposure alone his son would have naturally gravitated toward basketball.

And, in fact, Bryce did play youth basketball along with Little League baseball and rocket football but passed on participation in the higher level of AAU basketball. But did the younger Elliott seem to have the drive and passion for the game with which his father had attacked basketball? Not the case, said Elliott, who said his son never appeared to possess the desire to follow in his footsteps.

"To be honest, no," Elliott said. "My son grew up following me playing overseas and coaching, and I think maybe he had too much basketball. He almost stayed away from it. We didn’t know if he was interested."

Elliott had good reason to wonder about Bryce’s commitment to the game. He played some basketball at the middle school level in Allendale, but by both father and son’s admission, he wasn’t a particular standout. Bryce took more of an interest when he made the freshmen and junior varsity teams at Hudsonville, but even then his contribution to eventually playing serious minutes at the varsity level was in question.

"Being around my father, basketball was always in my life," Bryce said. "But I just grew away from it. I didn’t focus on basketball; I wasn’t much into it."

Until the light finally came on a year ago during his junior year.

Playing for his father, Bryce showed signs of becoming, if not a star, a decent player who could contribute at the OK Red Division level. From there, Bryce’s career has flourished. He was named all-conference this season after averaging 7.5 points and nearly two rebounds and two assists per game in helping the Eagles (19-4) to a regional title following last Wednesday’s 44-40 upset of Muskegon, a team which had eliminated Hudsonville the last three seasons.

As part of a balanced offense, Bryce isn’t expected to provide a bulk of the scoring. He contributed nearly double digits in scoring, but is more importantly what Elliott calls "our best perimeter defender". He held Muskegon star Linwood Lee III to just two points in the regional final as Lee missed all eight of his field goal tries.

"That was critical," Elliott said.

In the span of just a couple seasons, the younger Elliott has been transformed from a youngster only mildly interested in basketball to an important cog in a team in the hunt for a Class A state title. Hudsonville will play Lansing Everett (15-10) on Tuesday in a quarterfinal at Lansing Eastern at 7 p.m.

Bryce will likely never feature the basketball resume of his father, the ninth leading scorer in Hope College history with 1,624 points from 1987-91. Sixteen years after leaving Hope, Elliott still ranks among the school’s all-time top 10 in 11 different categories. But while he was a two-time third-team All-American who led the Dutchmen to a 41-7 record in MIAA games, his son plays the game more for the fun. And that’s fine with both of them.

"He played basketball because he enjoyed it," Eric Elliott said. "He developed a passion because I think he saw he could be a decent player."

Bryce admits he doesn’t have a true explanation for his basketball turnabout. He does agrees with his father when, and for what purposeful role, they discovered what he could contribute as a player.

"Somehow it just took off. I know I worked at it," he said. "With this team we don’t have much size so we have to play defense. I do what’s best for the team, what my dad has told me to do and that’s to do the things that make me better."

With some coach/son relationships there is friction. Marcy Elliott, Eric’s wife of 23 years, said she’s never had to act as a referee between the two.

"They talk about the games and rehash them," she said. "He’s not necessarily harder on Bryce, he just expects a little more. They’ve been respectful of each other. Bryce likes feedback and guidance, and Eric does that."

Bryce said there was a bit of give and take over expectations, and roles last season but all has long been settled.

"He’s been fair," Bryce said. "Last season I think we had to define the line between father and coach, but this year has been a lot better. We’re both understanding of each other and we want to get better."

Bryce said he would entertain the idea of playing college basketball, but the priority will be obtaining a business degree. If he never plays in college, that’s fine, he said. As for now, Bryce said he wants to become a better player.

"I don’t think so," Bryce said of playing his best basketball. "There’s room for improvement. If I plan on playing at the next level, I know I have to get better."