In the spring and summer of 2010, if you were to Google “Bryce Cotton basketball”, this (above photo) is the type of recruiting profile you would have found (minus the commitment). No player news, no photo, and the daunting NR (no rating) for his scout grade. The 6 foot guard from Tucson, Arizona wasn’t highly touted enough to receive a grade. At this point, it seemed going D1 was a far fetched option. But then a minor stir was started by an avid Louisville Cardinals fan by the name of Austin Montgomery.
On July 21, 2010, Montgomery posted his thoughts on Bryce Cotton on the Louisville basketball forum “Card Chronicle”. “Bryce Cotton Wouldn’t Mind Louisville” was simply a post from a high school fan, advocating why Cotton should have been receiving more attention than he was. Louisville Cardinal skeptics came flooding out of the woodwork poking fun at the lack of info behind this guard from Palo Verde High School. But with Cotton already graduated, and still lacking any national hype, it was difficult for anyone to look much further.
Two days later another post appeared on the same website. “Bryce Cotton For Louisville” came as a response to the buzz regarding the previous post. Cardinal fans knew nothing about Cotton but were dying to efficiently learn everything. A simple skim of the article would allow Louisville fans to find out that the 6 foot guard seemed to be pretty overlooked. Cotton had a great high school resumé resulting in zero D1 offers. Junior Colleges and fighting for one of Houston Baptist University’s two available scholarships is what Bryce Cotton’s summer had come to. But for the Louisville faithful, they had begun to hope Cotton would turn into Rick Pitino’s super-secret late summer steal.
On August 18, 2010, all of this came to screeching halt when Cotton reportedly committed to Miami-Dade College. Somehow still lacking D1 offers, this was his “best-case scenario”, according to Palo Verde Coach Chris Klassen. The brief but eventful online Bryce Cotton frenzy had come to a disappointing end. He would be a Miami-Dade College Shark and not a Louisville Cardinal as many had hoped.
12 days later, it was announced Bryce Cotton had committed to somewhere other than Miami-Dade. No, not Louisville, but their in-conference foe, the Providence Friars. Friar fans began to rejoice across recruiting blogs as they slowly started to realize the minor obsession Louisville fanatics had over Cotton during the past summer months. While the stir over Cotton and Louisville was quickly gaining momentum through college basketball blogs, Friars Head Coach Keno Davis was quietly putting in the work to get the guard to Providence.
The Bryce Cotton era in Friartown began on October 15, 2010, when the new kid on the block from Arizona won the slam dunk contest at the Friars’ Late Night Madness (watch highlights above). Barely 6 feet, Cotton came into Alumni Gymnasium throwing down dunks that sent chills down the spine of every Louisville Cardinal fan who had ever googled him. If I’m a Cards fan in 2010 and watching the above video, I would have thrown up all over my keyboard.
During his freshman year, Cotton averaged just over 15 minutes a game and scored in double figures four times over the course of the season. Not a bad start at all. Sophomore year comes around and Cotton averages 38 minutes and 14 points a game, with the signature event taking place on January 10th at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. Facing the 14th ranked Louisville Cardinals, the unranked Friars dominated Rick Pitino’s team from start to finish. Bryce Cotton finished with 27 points, going 5 for 5 from three, as Providence squashed the nationally ranked Cards 90-59. Feeling like a swift kick in the gut, Louisville fans found themselves playing the always sour “what could’ve been” card.
Following an outstanding junior year where he put up 19.7 points per game, Cotton’s senior year was extraordinary to say the least. Averaging 21.8 points a game, Cotton had to make up for the injuries of backcourt partner Kris Dunn. In doing so he played 40.1 minutes a night; mind you there are only 40 minutes in a college basketball game. He was the first player in the country to average over 40 minutes a game since Chris Quinn of Notre Dame did so in 2005-06. Cotton led the Friars to their first Big East Tournament title since 1994 while taking home the tournament’s MVP honors. Providence would be matched up against the 6th seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round where Cotton would get to put on a show on the national stage. And to say he put on a show would be a complete understatement.
Making one dazzling shot after another, Cotton scored 37 points as the Friars played their first NCAA tournament game since 2004. Unfortunately Providence couldn’t deal with a late UNC comeback, as they would eventually lose 79-77. Going 13 for 23 from the floor and adding 8 assists, Cotton left everything on the floor at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
On June 26, 2014, the NBA Draft came and went, and Bryce Cotton found himself right back where he was after his senior year of high school; underrated and overlooked. Going undrafted, he signed with the San Antonio Spurs on July 7th and immediately joined their summer league team. Cotton was waived by San Antonio on October 23rd and eventually landed on the D-League’s Austin Spurs where he would once again be forced to prove himself.
In 34 games at the D-League level, Cotton put up stellar numbers at 22.4 points per game. However a three week rampage from January 30th to February 18th made it almost impossible for him to not receive an NBA call-up. Averaging 29.7 points per game and shooting an unbelievable 50% from the field, Cotton led the Austin Spurs to a six game win streak which quickly gained the attention of NBA scouts. Keep in mind this all came after his 40 point performance on January 17th. Something’s gotta give, right?
Rightfully so, this got the ball rolling as Cotton signed a 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz on February 25th, followed by another 10-day deal on March 6th. Clearly the Jazz were liking what they were seeing in him, as they finalized a multi-year contract with Cotton on March 16th. Nobody deserves it more than the persistent Tucson native. His grit is never-ending and his talent is eye-opening. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing much more from Bryce Cotton as his NBA career moves on. Ask any Louisville Cardinals fan, I bet they’ll tell you the same thing.
P.S. Below is Bryce’s first career NBA three versus the Denver Nuggets. Here’s to many more.