Life and basketball are prosperous these days for The Patrick School and Bryce Aiken. Aiken led all Celtics scorers last Tuesday with 18 points in their 73-51 win in the Union County (NJ) Tournament Semifinals against county-rival Roselle Catholic.
Aiken,15, fell in love with the game at a young age; cradling a basketball in his hands when he was three years old. Aiken’s connection to sports is a family affair. His father Daryl ran track at UConn and later coached his son’s AAU teams. Both of Bryce’s older brothers are college athletes. His brother Kyle plays college basketball at Lincoln University and his other brother Julian plays basketball at Assumption College.
Since middle school, the point guard has impressed YouTube viewers with his ball handling skills and court awareness for New York City’s Team Scan AAU team. With Aiken’s name mentioned in the cream of the crop talent in the recruiting class of 2016, he’s garnered interest from Syracuse, UCLA, USC and Alabama. He currently has offers from Auburn, Creighton and Seton Hall.
With his name in bright lights, it’s only natural that he’d look for counsel and advice from someone who has once been in his shoes. While participating in Kyrie Irving’s ProCamp basketball camp last summer, Aiken developed a special bond with Irving that continued way after the camp ended. “I learn a lot from him,” said Aiken. “I don’t just learn about basketball from him, but I learn how to carry myself on and off the court.”
The feelings are mutual on Irving’s side: “That’s my young guy right there,” said Irving. “To have the opportunity to mentor him, I didn’t really have anyone like that when I was coming up except my father.”
Aiken averaged 16.3 points and 7.1 assists last season as a freshman at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, NJ. After leading the team to a 20-8 record and making it to the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public A semifinals, Pope John lost to Seton Hall Prep. This fall, Aiken transferred to The Patrick School; Irving’s alma mater. Before finalizing his decision Aiken sought out Irving’s advice.
“He transferred to St. Pats, under Coach Chavannes,” said Irving. “I told him I trust him with coach.”
A solid shooter with good passing skills, Aiken’s game has been compared to the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry. Aiken seems to prefer to play like Irving: “Every NBA game, he’s putting on a show and trying to get a win for his team,” said Aiken.
“That’s pretty much what I’m trying to do right now for my team. I’m trying to dominate the game.”
“I can tell he watches a lot of videos of me,” said Irving. “I encourage him to do that and watch other players so he can get better. He has so many similarities, he has this old-school feel. He’s fundamentally sound. To see a kid like that at 15 or 16 years old. You don’t see it that often.”
Aiken’s is watching and taking notes. Irving won the 2014 NBA All Star Game MVP after scoring 31 points while handing out 14 assists in the Eastern Conference’s 163-155 comeback victory over the West. “I actually thought he could have shot some more because it was an All Star Game,” marveled Aiken. “He did a good job of distributing the ball. He gave the fans what they wanted.”
A 3.9 GPA student, Bryce has a solid support system of both parents who make sure his homework and chores are completed. It’s an added bonus to have someone like Kyrie Irving who gives Bryce advice and keeps him accountable. “He knows it’s something not to take for granted,” said Bryce’s mom Diana Aiken.Aiken plans to continue working on his game in the off-season and is realistic about college and life after high school: “I’m definitely looking for a great academic college,” he said. “There’s always a backup plan, there’s always a chance you may not play basketball, so you’ve always got to worry about that too. But I want to go to the NBA.”
Kyrie Irving is happy for his mentee’s future: “I’m excited for his development and to see where he’s going to be in 2 to 3 years,” he said.
The Patrick School faced Linden High School (NJ) on Saturday in the County Finals in a rematch from last season’s Union County Tournament Final. The reigning back to back Union County champs are looking past the county win and it starts wit their little floor general. Bryce Aiken: “The ultimate goal is to win the Tournament of Champions,” he said.