Sometimes an athlete comes your way, Drew Hibbs was explaining Thursday afternoon, and you just know he's special.
The boys basketball coach at Foothill High School has mentored dozens of players, some of whom went on to play in college. When he first saw Michael Bryson four years ago, Hibbs knew he had an intriguing young talent loaded with potential.
Now a senior, the 6-foot-4 Bryson is a three-year starting guard and one of the best players Hibbs has coached. He's a captain and the focal point of a Mustangs team that has won 23 consecutive games and has visions of winning Foothill's third Northern California Division III championship since 1994.
"I could tell with Bryson," Hibbs said. "He was special. Some kids have potential and the tools, but things don't work out for whatever reason. With Michael, we could tell he was going to be different."
Bryson's versatile game, with good grades and character to match, made him a national recruit. He can shoot over defenses from the perimeter or drive the lane and attack the basket. He has above-the-rim abilities, certainly, though there is no showboating in his game. He's averaging 19.3 points.
Bryson fielded recruiting interest from Pacific-12 Conference teams and locally from Sacramento State and UC Davis. Last fall, he signed a letter-of-intent with UC Santa Barbara and coach Bob Williams, who coached Hibbs at Menlo College in the Bay Area in the 1980s before coaching at UCD.
Still, Bryson said he is not satisfied. He wants to improve become a better ball handler, develop a quicker release on his shot and play more inspired defense.
"You can always get better," Bryson said.
Bryson gets his basketball genes from his father, James. The elder Bryson played high school ball in Merced and had a stint at Fresno State as a 6-3 small forward. Father and son have waged many front-yard tussles under the family hoop, heaven help the weakening backboard.
"My dad's still got it," Bryson said with a laugh. "He still plays in any rec league he can get into. And we still play when we have time. He has his old-man tricks to use on me, and I learned to counter with young-man tricks."
Hibbs said he will forever appreciate coaching Bryson. He is fond of Foothill's core seniors that include David Sanders, Kelly Bender, Dante Hullum and Bryson.
"You know how coaches talk about having their best players as their hardest workers?" Hibbs said. "That's Michael and everything falls in line."
Bryson said he is eager to begin college, where he'll study kinesiology but is in no real hurry. There are games to be played and classes to be conquered.
"I'm excited about college, but I want to embrace the rest of my senior year first," Bryson said.
Bryson's teammates embrace the fact that not only is he their best player, he also has the Mustangs' best set of wheels available. Bryson tools to school in his 1995 Dodge Intrepid, not to be confused with a BMW but certainly better than the bus.
"All my friends ask for a ride," Bryson said. "They come find me."
A team player off the court, too.