DOWNINGTOWN >> The names “Brickus” and “Bryant” are like royalty when it comes to Coatesville basketball circles. And on Thursday evening at Downingtown West, a group of newcomers authored yet another chapter in what has become a multi-generational tale of glory for one special extended family.
The Red Raiders outlasted Bishop Shanahan in overtime, 43-37, to capture Coatesville’s second straight Ches-Mont League Boys’ Championship. And the three-way Brickus-Bryant brigade had its fingerprints all over the title run.
Senior Kamau Brickus scored the go-ahead point in the OT, and wound up notching five of his nine points in the extra session. His first cousins Jhamir Brickus and Dapree Bryant — who are step-brothers — are only freshmen, but they also contributed mightily, not just against the Eagles but throughout the season.
“Those three come from a very talented family tree, and it shows,” said Raiders’ head coach Chuck Moore.
“The three of us have been talking about winning a championship together since they were in middle school,” added Kamau, who also contributed seven rebounds, four steals and two assists on Thursday. “Tonight we did it.”
The three players are family, but they are also Coatesville’s primary ballhandlers. They all play backcourt positions, with Jhamir at the point and the others on the wing. Just about every set goes through the Brickus-Bryant brigade, and the Raiders’ lethal full-court pressure defense? It’s pretty much the brigade, with a little help from the rest of their teammates.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time, so things just come natural for us,” said Bryant, who came off the bench to chip in two points, two rebounds, a steal and a block.
“We have great chemistry,” echoed Jhamir, who scored six points, dished out four assists, grabbed five rebounds and swiped three steals. “We’ve been playing basketball for many years — probably since me and (Dapree) were five.”
It’s like a family reunion every time the Red Raiders roll out the basketballs this season. And it all goes much deeper than just the current members of the team. Considering all of the family ties, there could be an additional several dozen from the Brickus-Bryant brigade in the stands during any given home game. And we’re not just talking about Coatesville alums and/or residents. We’re talking about former hoops legends who had a hand in bringing the city not one, but two state basketball championships in the last quarter century.
Jhamir and Dapree’s father, Maurice Bryant, was a member of Coatesville’s 2001 state title team. And Kamau’s mom, LaToya Brickus, was a key member of the Red Raiders girls’ team that won the state crown in 1994. There are also a couple uncles — Jeff and Tyree Brickus — who were also members of the boys’ championship squad.
“That pedigree is huge,” Moore acknowledged. “And the part you don’t see is that you know that when they go home, they are talking to parents and other relatives who have been there before. People who know what to expect and give me the freedom to coach.
“Kamau’s mom won a state title. And Dapree and Jhamir’s dad did the same. They understand the pressures, and what it takes to get there.”
A 6-footer Kamau just might be the most indispensable player on Coatesville’s roster. Very versatile and athletic, he rarely leaves the court. When Kamau was whistled for his third foul late in the first half on Thursday, Moore never even thought about taking him out. And when he suffered a small cut on his shoulder in the second half, Kamau exited the game briefly, and was back on the court moments later after being attended to by a trainer.
“Kamau is the glue,” Moore said. “He is there to be the calming influence. He’s been there before. He was on the Ches-Mont title team last year, so he knows how to talk to (Jhamir and Dapree) when I can’t get through to them.
“It’s that family connection.”
Jhamir has been a rock-solid starter all season, and most of the time, as he orchestrates the Raiders at both ends of the floor, you have to keep reminding yourself that he is just a freshman.
Dapree is Coatesville’s sixth man, but when the title game went down to the wire in regulation and onto overtime, he was on the floor with his brother and his cousin.
“For both of them to have that poise and confidence for ninth graders, it’s kind of unbelievable,” Moore said. “And the beauty is I got them for four more years.”
All three came up with difference-making plays against a very game Bishop Shanahan squad. Bryant had a big block that led to a bucket at the other end in the third quarter, and added two free throws to complete a 10-0 Raiders’ run to start the second half. In the final period, Jhamir was a blur on a drive where he was fouled but still managed to hang in the air and complete a one-handed, lefty shot, plus the and-one.
And in the final two minutes of regulation, with the Raiders trying to hold off the Eagles, the Brickus-Bryant brigade were front and center when Moore decided to go the four-corner offense.
“It’s kind of a stress-relief for me,” Moore explained. “I learned very quickly as a coach that once the game starts, I don’t really have much control. It’s really up to the players, and all three of those guys are an extension of me on the floor.
“It’s a relief for me to know we have ball security. You’ll notice with a couple minutes left in regulation, I called a stall-offense to kind of stretch (Bishop Shanahan’s) defense out. I trusted them to have the ball in those important moments.
“They’ve been huge for us all season. And I am proud they were able to come through for us.”
Off the court, the trio reportedly hang together all the time. Kamau remembers his cousins when they were toddlers.
“We all grew up together,” he said. “They always have a basketball in their hands. That’s probably why I expected them to be this good once they got to high school. Both of them put in the extra time and they can play.”
Jhamir and Dapree lived in the same home for a couple years, and are inseparable. They each described the other as “a best friend.”
“We play video games and basketball, and not much else,” Jhamir laughed.
“It’s good having family on this team because these are guys I can really trust,” added Dapree. “And when we go out and play, we are representing Coatesville, but also our family name.”
And now at big family get-togethers, the younger generation of the Brickus-Bryant brigade can represent when the subject of Coatesville basketball is raised, and you know that it will.
“Now we have a title to talk about, but we’re still trying to get the same hardware that they have,” Kamau said. “They still have those state titles.”
Neil Geoghegan is a reporter for Digital First Media and PaPrepLive.com. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @NeilMGeoghegan.