Even with blood spilling out of his mouth and pain shooting through his head after taking an elbow to the mouth in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament, Bryant Stith had the foresight to hide his dislodged tooth from the Virginia coaching staff.
“I could feel my broken tooth in my mouth,” Stith said. “What I did was I just spitted it in my hand and gave it to Ethan [Saliba] who was our trainer and I asked him not to tell the coaches, because I knew what the response would have been – immediate substitution.”
Even breathing was painful for Stith, since every time the forward sucked in air it would touch the open nerve on his gum. Stith didn’t miss even a single play though, and his team held on to pull out a 100-97 win over Providence.
Bryant Stith is still Virginia’s all-time leading scorer with 2,516 career points.
Success at all costs was Stith’s mantra during his time at Virginia, and the 6-foot-5 forward achieved it on both the team and individual levels. He led the Cavaliers to three NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT Championship and still remains Virginia’s all-time leading scorer with 2,516 career points. He also played in the NBA for 10 years following his time in Charlottesville.
“Bryant was on his best when the game was on the line,” former Virginia coach Jeff Jones said. “There were so many times he was able to make, not just take important shots down the stretch. He was just such a clutch performer.”
Jones joined Virginia head coach Terry Holland’s staff as an assistant in 1986 and soon after became the main recruiter for Stith. In addition to his talent on the basketball floor, Jones was impressed with the environment Stith grew up in and the character the young man had developed even as a high schooler.
“The term ‘good kid’ gets thrown around a lot,” Jones...
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