Rebuilding a Defensive Presence in Skyforce Guard Briante Weber
It’s been an extraordinary effort just to build the bridge from college to professional basketball for Briante Weber. One of the “concrete pilings” in that span turned out to be a serious injury.
Whenever you start a big project, the strongest of foundations is necessary so that the structure will last. Weber’s earliest recollections as a child were finding a way to possess the ball. “Since I was about three years old when I first touched the ball, my mom always told me I said, ‘I got the ball! I got the ball!’ That’s how it’s always been since then. I’ve played a lot of sports, but basketball kept me grounded and humbled. It actually kept me in school.”
Briante’s mom and stepfather were early influences in shaping his basketball prowess. As Weber gained experience others played a part in showing him the way. “Coach (Shaka) Smart (VCU Head Coach at the time) comes to mind because he’s the latest. He helped me out dearly. Coach (Mike) Rhoades the head coach at Rice (who was also on staff at VCU) he was like a father figure, a mentor. My AAU coach Jermaine Woods was the start of it all and he pushed me to another level.”
That level was nearly to the top of the chart of the NCAA career steals list. On a late January night, Weber’s dream took a detour. “It’s such a vivid picture in my mind. I got the rebound against Richmond. As I’m about to get into the lane, I pro-hopped. Something I’ve done a million times. My knees touched. As I’m coming down, I passed the ball to Melvin Johnson and just blacked out after that. I’ve never been seriously injured in my life. (Before that) I’ve never been away from basketball for more than two days.”
Quite often people will retreat into a shell after a traumatic experience. Weber did that initially, but soon turned his focus outward as his team needed his leadership. “When I (knew how bad it was), I had my little breakdown because my college career was over. At the same time I had a feeling that my teammates were going to be more distraught than I was. I told them the season wasn’t over. We planned at the beginning of the year to win championships and they were going to do it without me. I talked to JeQuan Lewis the point guard and said, ‘Little bro’ it’s your turn.’ I was going to be good regardless. I’ve never been a down person. Everything happens for a reason.” Watching from the sidelines Weber was witness to his teammates marching through the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament to win an automatic NCAA bid.
As much as he gave of himself to VCU, Weber received significantly more in return during the healing process. “I have a phenomenal support base at VCU. Everybody wants to see me succeed and be the pro that they know I could be. They helped me rehab until I was able to do just about anything court-wise.”
Weber had a couple of professional workouts before the Miami Heat offered a spot on their training camp roster with the eventual goal of placing Weber in Sioux Falls with the Skyforce. In early November, Weber says his health was at 90 percent. To be ready for the professional game there was some finishing work to be done. “It’s been more of a strengthening process so that I wouldn’t be leaning more on one leg than the other. I didn’t take any days off until I could get on the court. That was exactly what I needed was somebody to tell me, 'You have (to do) a little bit more. Keep pushing.' If it were up to me, I would have been out ther prematurely and probably would have sustained another injury.”
That day finally arrived to finally continue the basketball sojourn for Weber. It was in Santa Cruz during the NBADL Showcase on January 7, 2016. All the rehabilitation and sweat equity invested into a basketball dream was finally paying dividends. "They gave me the go-ahead and the jersey was in the locker. That's the moment I've been waiting for since January 31, 2015."
Eight games into his professional career, Weber has made his impact resonate. He is averaging nearly 6 points, 3 rebounds and 1.25 steals in 15 minutes per contest. His driving layup with 5 and a half minutes left keyed a 13-0 run. Two of his 11 points that pushed the Skyforce to a 99-93 win over Canton on Saturday.