By ROBB HEMMELGARN
For a Mercer County boy in the late 1960s, the world didn’t
usually extend much farther than Dayton or Cincinnati for the
occasional shopping excursion or pilgrimage to Crosley Field
to catch the Cincinnati Reds.
For one Fort Recovery basketball player, he quickly found out
that the boundaries of existence were far greater than he could
Tom Bryan recalls growing up in Fort Recovery and performing
ball-handling drills in the basement of his parents home on
If his skills passed the acceptance of his basketball-loving
father, Tom would receive silver dollar payments as a reward.
Bryan explains that basketball had always been a huge part of
his family, and the sport played a very big role in his formative
“I participated in a lot of sports growing up, but at
the end of my freshman year, I played basketball only,”
remarked Bryan. “I spent a lot of time in the offseason
working on my game and a lot of time practicing by myself for
hours at a time. I must not have been too impressive in other
sports because no one tried to talk me out of focusing on basketball.”
It’s probably a good thing he was left alone because by
the time Tom’s senior year was complete, he led the Indians
to a 22-2 record and at one point, a number-one ranking in the
On a footnote to the 1967 campaign, Bryan was named first team
All-Ohio and was the UPI Player of the Year, while finishing
as Fort Recovery’s all-time leading scorer at that time,
with 1,166 points. Bryan still holds the top three spots in
the school record books with 55, 50, and 42 point-games in his
“When I was a senior I was 6-4 and weighed around 165
pounds and I averaged 17 rebounds.” He continued. “We
played at Coldwater that year and it was a huge game. It was
sold out and they put televisions in the classrooms and sold
tickets for those seats.
“My buddy bet someone from Coldwater that I would outrebound
the entire Coldwater team. I grabbed 28 boards and he won his
bet,” Bryan added laughingly. “People always talk
to me about those days and remember the points I scored, but
I really think I was a better rebounder.”
Following a stellar career for the Indians, it was on to the
University of Nebraska for Bryan, an experience he admits changed
“The main reason I went to Nebraska was that I liked Lincoln
very much and had a very positive experience when they recruited
me,” explained Bryan. “I looked at it in terms of
being more than just basketball. I felt it was a way to experience
a totally different part of the country. I remember my dad dropping
me off and before he left he told me that it was time to sink
Tom swam, although at times it was in turbulent water.
He worked his way into the Cornhuskers’ starting lineup
as a sophomore, but an unexpected injury forced him to miss
his entire junior season, before coming back to start as a senior.
Following graduation from Nebraska, Bryan expanded his boundaries
once again, traveling overseas to experience the European continent.
While in Europe, the temptation of basketball tweaked his interest
“A teammate of mine from Nebraska was playing ball over
there,” Bryan explained. “A player on their team
was injured and they were looking for someone to take his place.
I tried out and ended up making the team. I played in Belgium
for the next seven years.”
During his off-seasons, the former Indian continued his adventurous
travels of Europe before another injury coerced him into shifting
his life pattern yet again. Returning to the United States with
nothing but a taste of the world and a degree in education,
Bryan planted his feet in Van Wert County and has been in the
Lincolnview school system ever since, currently serving as the
high school athletic director.
“When I got back to the United States, I called my old
coach, coach Souder at Fort Recovery, and asked if there were
any teaching openings in the area. He pointed me toward Lincolnview
and I have been there since,” noted Bryan.
Tom’s wife is also a teacher in the Lincolnview school
system and the Bryan’s have two children, Kazz and Zefiryn,
who consume the majority of the couples time.
“My kids are very active, so I don’t have much free
time. I do, however, take them to the gym regularly to work
on basketball, but for me, my playing days are now over,”
Through basketball, Tom explains he has developed relationships
and become more well-rounded than he could have ever imagined.
From his high school coach at Fort Recovery, Al Souder, and
former teammates such as Ken Heiby to former NBA players JoJo
White and Cazzie Russell, Bryan has taken bits of advice from
every individual he claims has given him a hand along the way.
When asked the biggest accomplishment in his life to this point,
Bryan responded by saying, “I was a kid from a small town
in Ohio who had basketball take him around the world.”