PENDLETON — Buckaroo Bryan Beard added his name to the list of Eastern Oregon high schoolers who have accepted scholarship offers this month when the 6-foot-9 center signed on to play basketball with the Oregon Institute of Technology next year.
The decision wasn’t hard to make, the senior said, after he met with Tech’s basketball coach Danny Miles in the spring. Miles will be in his 42nd season as coach of the Hustlin’ Owls by the time Beard takes his first step on the court in Klamath Falls next year. In that time, Miles has crafted one of the most successful NAIA programs in the country, winning national championships twice in the previous decade. The coach has reeled off 937 victories in his time with the school — the second highest career tally across all levels of college basketball.
“When I originally had gone there for a visit and we’d gotten introduced, I didn’t have any idea of what they’re all about,” said Beard, who signed his letter of intent on Nov. 9. “They have a good winning history and they also have a lot of fan support from the town.”
Beard’s arrival at prominence didn’t happen over night, Pendleton head coach David Norton said. Though Norton has only coached the team and Beard for two years, assistants have raved about the center’s transformation dating back to his arrival at Pendleton High. Beard — while still a bit lanky by collegiate standards at 215 pounds — is a muscle-packed monster compared to his freshman self. He commands the ball in the post in a way he never did in seasons past, Norton said.
“Last year he was a kid that we really didn’t run any back-to-the-basket like stuff for him with him posting up,” the coach said. “Physically he just wasn’t there yet. Over the summer with him playing so much with us and his AAU team, he’s just gained a ton of confidence. Now we can run a ton more things through him. It’s opened up our offense.”
The offensive domination may be new for the Bucks big man, but the defense developed early, assistant coach Mitch Morioka said. Beard set a Pendleton season record in his junior campaign with 110 blocks — which included another record of 11 blocks in one game versus The Dalles Wahtonka.
“It’s not only the blocks but just his length and his presence in there,” Morioka said. “He might not get a block on every play but he alters the shot and makes a big difference.”
Big is the key word for Bryan Beard. No player currently on the Hustlin’ Owls roster measures up to him and he’s looking forward to bringing his big-man status to the program, he said.
But with the signing out of the way, first he’d like to finishing playing basketball in a Pendleton uniform.
“A lot of people I know are just now thinking about what colleges they might want to apply to and with me being already accepted, it’s something I don’t have to think about anymore,” Beard said. “I can just focus on what’s at hand right now.”
And for Beard and the Pendleton Bucks, that task starts tonight. The Bucks begin their season in La Grande with tip off slated for 7 p.m.