WILMINGTON — Former NFL Head Coach and ESPN commentator Herm Edwards continuously warns athletes of all ages, using three simple words, about posting thoughts on social media: Don’t Press Send!
From President Trump taking to Twitter regularly, to Pittsburgh Steelers’ star wide-out Antonio Brown recently going on Facebook LIVE from inside the locker room following the Steelers’ playoff win against Kansas City, repercussions from hasty social media posts are becoming commonplace. One local standout, now in his sophomore year playing college basketball, knows well how one click can turn your word upside down.
One year ago this March, Hoggard High School alum Trae Bryant was the center of attention for a brief moment throughout the world of college basketball because of a Tweet that seemed harmless at the time. Little did he know, his two simple statements would go viral and catch the attention of the NCAA.
At the time, Bryant was a freshman playing on the UNC-Asheville Men’s Basketball Team. The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Tournament and were in New York City for an opening round match up against the eventual National Champion, Villanova Wildcats.
After getting into the team hotel Bryant was looking to get on the internet and tweeted about his desire to find the WiFi password. Innocent enough, right?
“We need wifi at the hotel. Have some school work to do @NCAA”
— TB3 (@T_Bryant3) March 16, 2016
Not so fast. During one of the national NCAA Tournament broadcasts, announcers calling the game pointed to Bryant’s tweet, sparking reaction from thousands, including the governing body of college sports.
@InsidetheNCAA, The official Twitter account for the latest NCAA news and updates, responded:
“The NCAA provides free wi-fi to student-athletes at all of the team hotels during the DI men’s basketball championship.”
After Bryant deleted his initial tweet, he responded the following day –
“The wifi problem is good.”
Fortunately for Bryant, the “controversy” hurt no one and quickly was forgotten. Lesson learned.
“It was really supposed to be a joke, just having a little fun in the hotel,” Bryant said. “Next thing you know we’re going out to eat 30 minutes after I sent the tweet all of a sudden you see the tweet on ESPN at halftime. I really underestimated the power of social media.
“They found stories,” he added. “USA Today wrote an entire article about it, talking about absolutely nothing. It was definitely a learning experience. It was funny at the same time though.”
In this social media driven world where your day and even life can change with a single thumb tap on your phone, Bryant quickly found out he needed to think for just a second before pressing send.
“Everybody on the team thought it was a joke,” Bryant chuckled. “It wasn’t as funny to our head coach, with him getting calls from the athletics director and NCAA president. I could see where they got a little bit upset about it, but it was just all in good fun. The funny thing was the NCAA wasn’t mad at me. They were mostly mad at the hotel for not giving us the Wi-Fi password.”
After returning home from the western part of the state to play his sophomore season under Coach Ryan Mantlo at Cape Fear Community College, Bryant, like many other athletes and young adults his age, still share most things about their life in 140 characters.
He’s chalked up the few days of digital notoriety to experience gained. Now, he’s pushing forward to being the best he can be, both on and off the floor. Bryant has excelled through the midway point of the season as Cape Fear Community College sets its sights on making another trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Tournament.
“It was a family decision to come back home,” Bryant said. “We started thinking about it last January to come back for a year before going back potentially to play Division 1 basketball. I love it here. We have a bunch of talent here. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make a run. Prepare for it and get better.”
Through 19 games this season, Bryant is the Sea Devils leading scoring. He averages 17.8 points per game in 19 starts, while shooting 53 percent from the field. With a few offers on the table to continue his playing career at the division I level moving into his junior campaign, the Wilmington native is keeping his focus as he looks to help lead the Sea Devils to a special year in front of his hometown crowd.
While he continues to work on developing his game in guiding Cape Fear, Bryant will always keep his first trip to the Big Apple close to his mind as a way to stay grounded when facing the urge to press send.
“That’s all I think about when I tweet something, first of all, who follows me, who’s going to see this and retweet it,” Bryant said. “Will somebody find it offensive? Will somebody try to blow it out of control, I think about all those things before I press the tweet button.”