Over the course of his life, the city of Valparaiso has twice called to Bryce Drew. The first time, Drew was just a middle schooler. He moved to the city with his family when his father, Homer, became the head men's basketball coach at Valparaiso University. It was the start of the most formidable years of the younger Drew's life.
"I know this was my dad's dream job at the time and he really wanted it, so when I saw him so excited, I was very excited," Drew said. "I met some great people, some great friends right away when we first moved here. In high school, I had a very enjoyable four years with the teachers and the coaches that I had and all of my friends."
Drew overcame a rapid heartbeat in high school to lead the Valparaiso Vikings to a state championship appearance his senior year. That year, he was named both the 1994 Indiana Mr. Basketball and the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year.
Drew garnered attention from dozens of colleges, but his decision to stay home and play for his father at Valparaiso University was an easy one.
"I was very excited to stay here. When it came time to decide where to go for college, I had met so many nice people and really enjoyed living here and I didn't want to go away," Drew said.
During his collegiate career, Drew helped put Valpo on the map with "The Shot," a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Ole Miss that moved the Crusaders into the second round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The most decorated player in Valparaiso University history, Drew was drafted 16th overall in the 1998 NBA draft and went on to play six seasons with the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets.
Waived by the Hornets after the 2003-04 season, Drew played one year overseas with Valencia BC before Valparaiso called to him to come home after a spot opened on his father's staff at Valparaiso University.
"Obviously, a big draw was that my dad was still coaching here, so my family was here. And this is where I spent so many years in junior high, high school and college; every summer when I was playing professionally I would come back to Valpo and train at [the university] or up in Chicago," Drew said. "I was familiar with the area and had met a lot of good people over the years. It was kind of natural for me just to come back with the comfort that I had with the people and the community.
"I really enjoyed the college age, dealing with that type of student-athlete. It just seemed like it was God's timing to stop playing and to start coaching. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to coach by [my dad's] side for several years, to be able to see him in his workplace and to be there and try to help him build his program," he said.
Drew joined his father's staff as an assistant coach in for the 2005-06 season and was promoted to associate head coach the next season. When Homer retired following the 2010-11 season, Bryce Drew took over the program.
"Part of me was very sad to see my dad retire just because my whole life I had seen him on the sidelines, so there was a bit of sadness from that standpoint," Drew said. "On the other hand, I was really excited to have the opportunity to be the head coach, especially at a school that I had graduated from and have a lot of love for."
The program has seen a great amount of success with Bryce Drew at the helm, including two Horizon League regular season titles. Last season, the Crusaders won the Horizon League tournament and appeared in the NCAA Tournament. Drew is the fastest coach in program history to reach 50 career wins.
Spurred by the success of the program and the familiarity with Drew, Valparaiso signed its head coach to a 10-year contract extension early in the season.
"It's a blessing. The timing of everything worked out with our president (Dr. Mark Heckler) and our athletic director (Mark LaBabera) and our program and our university," Drew said. "The growth of the school has been phenomenal and I think the school has a bright, bright future as a university. That's something I definitely wanted to be a part of. I'm very excited but also very motivated. Our university is growing and my goal is the have the basketball program keep going."
Valparaiso finished its non-conference schedule 8-7 and will open Horizon League play on Thursday, hosting UIC at the ARC. The program is in a rebuilding year after losing six seniors from last year's squad. But with a new 10-year contract extension in hand, Drew has time to continue improving the team while continuing to enjoy his favorite parts of the Valparaiso community.
"I think Valpo has changed a lot from when I was in high school to now, but the thing that has stayed the same is that it has always been a family-oriented community," Drew said. "I think the downtown is great with all the restaurants and what it has turned into.
"I love that [Lake Michigan] is 15 minutes away, that you can go walk on the beach and have water to see. And I like the proximity to Chicago. We're not in Chicago, but it's just a short drive. I really, really like the location," Drew ended.
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