By BEN JOHNSON
Life is a juggling act. No need to expound on that for Bryton Hobbs.
The Northeastern State point guard knows all about balancing everyday responsibilities.
Six months ago, his priorities shifted from class work and basketball to an infant.
Jaydon Ali Hobbs — Bryton’s baby boy — shot to the top of the list.
However, versus casting the sport he loves aside, Bryton now uses basketball as an avenue to provide a better life for his son.
“Playing basketball, I already had a motive before my son was here,” Hobbs said, “and that was to play professional basketball.
“That’s still my motive and that’s still my dream, but he just added more fuel to the fire. Meaning I have to find a way to support him, and I work harder to be able to get to the level I want to.”
That drive has propelled Hobbs to become NSU’s leading scorer through 16 games this season. The 6-foot, 170-pound St. Louis native is averaging 17.4 points per game while leading the RiverHawks to a 12-4 overall mark and a 5-3 record in the MIAA.
So, did Hobbs — after transferring to NSU from Pratt Community College (Kan.) — expect to step into the prominent scoring role right away?
“I didn’t come in thinking I was going to be a scorer,” said Hobbs, who is also averaging a team-leading 4.9 assists per contest. “With the guys that I have — the shooters and Jermaine (Bransford) down in the low post — I didn’t think that. But other teams didn’t know who I was. I just took that to my advantage, and plus if my team needs me [to score], I’m there to fill in the blank.”
He certainly did that in NSU’s most recent game: an 85-78 upset of No. 10 Washburn. Against the Ichabods, Hobbs drained 14 of 17 free throws, dished out seven assists and had 25 points — one point off his career high — to gain MIAA Player of the Week honors.
“Just to come out and show everybody that we’re not playing around with anybody,” Hobbs said, “that was a big win.”
Considering the RiverHawks tallied only five victories last season, every win is a jolt.
NSU coach Larry Gipson said his team’s success can be traced back to Hobbs coming on board and solidifying the point guard position that was on shaky ground last season.
“We felt like a year ago that our primary recruiting need was to find a viable point guard that could compete in this league,” Gipson said. “We were in late May, and one young man that we signed had fallen through from a grade standpoint. So we were scrambling.”
From there, the relationship between Hobbs and NSU took off.
“We got in contact with Bryton, and I think it was a perfect storm,” Gipson said. “His goal of getting to Division I didn’t look like it was going to be reached, and we needed a point guard. We knew he was a good scoring point guard, but we didn’t know if he was a run-the-show point guard.
“But we’ve been really pleased with his demeanor, his attitude.”
Hobbs, though, almost didn’t end up in Tahlequah.
Out of high school, Hobbs went to Cowley College (Kan.) before continuing on to Pratt Community College. There, he posted 18.6 points and nearly six assists a game, which prompted Division I schools to give him a look.
“I was getting Division I interest, but I didn’t take college algebra,” said Hobbs, who was being recruited by High Point, Albany, Nebraska-Omaha and Tennessee-Martin.
“Not that many Division II’s were calling me, because they thought I was going Division I.”
Gipson and NSU assistant Jon Havens rolled the dice and formed a bond with Hobbs.
“Coach Gipson and Coach Havens called me one day, and we just built this relationship,” Hobbs said. “And I thought they were real genuine, and they wanted me for me, not just telling me lies.”
From there, the rest is history.
“I just made a decision to come here,” Hobbs said. “Plus, it’s a big plus because my son is only four hours away.”
That made Hobbs’ juggling act that much easier.
Pittsburg State at Northeastern State
When: Women at 5:30 p.m. and men at 7:30 on Wednesday.
Where: Jack Dobbins Field House.
Nicknames: Northeastern State RiverHawks; Pittsburg State Gorillas.
Records: NSU (11-5, 6-2 MIAA); Pitt State (12-4, 6-2).
Coaches: NSU (Randy Gipson); Pitt State (Lane Lord).
About NSU: The RiverHawks are now receiving votes (two) in the coaches’ poll. ... NSU’s last game was a 52-43 win over Washburn on Saturday. The RiverHawks’ Taylor Lewis led all scorers with 22 points. ... Lewis leads NSU in scoring this season with 16.1 points per game.
About Pitt State: The Gorillas are ranked 18th in Division II hoops. ... Pitt State has won two straight games, including a 51-48 win over Fort Hays State on Saturday. ... Lizzy Jeronimus is the Gorillas’ leading scorer with 19.1 points per game.
Records: NSU (12-4, 5-3); Pitt State (12-4, 5-3).
Coaches: NSU (Larry Gipson); Pitt State (Kevin Muff).
About NSU: The RiverHawks are coming off an 85-78 victory over No. 10 Washburn on Saturday. ... Over his last 12 games, NSU’s Jermaine Bransford — the MIAA’s leading rebounder — is averaging 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
About Pitt State: The Gorillas snapped a two-game losing streak with a 72-69 over Fort Hays State on Saturday. ... Pitt State is led in scoring by Kaleb Porter at 13.7 points per game. JaVon McGee is the Gorilla’s top rebounder with 7.2 rebounds per contest.