Bryan Greenlee was in the seventh grade when he saw Nate Mason leading Arlington Country Day to a Florida state championship in Gainesville.
Mason was an underrated three-star recruit who went on to become one of the best guards to play for the University of Minnesota from 2014-18.
Greenlee, who signed with the Gophers last week, hopes to follow in Mason’s footsteps coming from the same high school league in Florida.
The 6-foot, 190-pound point guard led The Rock School in Gainesville to the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association boys basketball championship this year. He also was named the tournament’s MVP. Mason accomplished both as a senior as well.
“I definitely think with the right amount of work, dedication and hours in the gym that I could see myself right there,” Greenlee said about playing at a high level in the Big Ten.
In a Q&A with the Star Tribune recently, Greenlee, who joins the team Monday, talked about how the Gophers landed him late in the recruiting process, what impact he hopes to make his freshman year and more.
Q: What was it like waiting this long to make a commitment but still being able to play in the Big Ten?
A: It was just so relieving and such excitement to finally get the process over. It was big time. It was definitely big time. It’s actually been a really short process. They contacted me about two weeks ago. They were interested. They saw me play AAU awhile ago recruiting two kids from my team. So, they already had a feel for my game. That’s why they were more comfortable offering me without seeing me in person and working me out.
Q: What did the Gophers tell you about why they were recruiting you right now?
A: Two weeks ago, I spoke with (Gophers assistant Kyle) Lindsted a lot. He was just pushing for me. He wanted me up there. I spoke with Coach (Richard) Pitino a little bit trying to build a relationship. I guess they were waiting on a commitment from another player (North Texas graduate transfer Ryan Woolridge). He was taking too long or uncertain. So, they decided to extend me the offer. It was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I told them I was ready to come as soon as possible. They already started summer workouts and class starts Monday. It was definitely a quick process. The offer came (last Wednesday). If it was earlier in the season and I had more time to wait things might be different. But at this point, I’m just ready to settle down somewhere and call Minnesota home for the next four years.
Q: What AAU team did you play for where the Gophers were recruiting your teammates?
A: I played for Team Knight on the Adidas Circuit. Toumani Camara is going to the University of Georgia. Luke Anderson is going to Iowa State.
Q: How familiar were you of the Gophers before they started recruiting you this summer?
A: I actually followed Minnesota a little bit when Nate Mason was there. He played in the same conference as me in high school. He came from ACD in the SIAA. I came from The Rock in the SIAA also. I got to watch him play in high school. I’m also familiar with teams in the Big Ten. A former teammate of mine (Jamari Wheeler) graduated from The Rock and plays for Penn State. I watch some of his games. I’m looking forward to going at him this season and anyone else.
Q: You were an all-state player and won state titles. You played against future NBA lottery picks, but you had just one Power Five offer before now (from Iowa last summer). How much does that motivate you?
A: I still to this day feel like I’m underrated. I’ve been underrated my whole career as far as receiving offers and receiving the notoriety that I feel like I deserve. I’m not upset about it. It’s just another factor to make me grind harder and stay in the gym to prove people wrong. I feel like my height does have something to do with it. A lot of coaches like taller players.
Q: What are strengths that could help you contribute for the Gophers next season as a freshman?
A: Definitely my playmaking. I’m a really fast guard who likes to push the pace. Getting out in transition, running the break and finding open guys on the run. I just like creating. My defense is also something I take pride in. All the players I matched up against who were top ranked I didn’t like to get scored on. I take pride in my defense. That’s something I’m going to bring to Minnesota.
Q: You’re the seventh newcomer on the roster for the Gophers next season, including Marcus Carr at point guard. How important is it to build chemistry this summer with your teammates, especially Carr?
A: Chemistry just comes with time spent together and adversity we go through. That will come. I definitely think that (Carr) being a redshirt sophomore will push me to work harder. He obviously has more experience at the collegiate level playing for Pittsburgh for one year (in 2017-18). I just feel like it’s going to make me go harder to earn my minutes and earn a spot.
Q: You’re built like a football player. Do you think your physical toughness and strength will help for a smoother transition to the Big Ten?
A: For sure. I think that’s one of the biggest downsides for most freshmen coming in is they’re not physically ready to play. I definitely think I’m at an advantage there. I’m 6-foot and 190. My strength and my size will benefit me. To be honest, it’s really just God given. I do workout, but it’s not like I’ve lived in the weight room to get here. It’s really just natural. My dad was a football player. He has the same exact body type as me.
Q: How did winning state titles and playing a national schedule with The Rock help prepare you for college?
A: I would say just the level of competition that The Rock plays and the level of character of the player that coach (Justin) Harden holds us definitely is great. It’ll translate even better to college, because I already have the experience of playing against high-major Division I players and potential pros. When you play in the national stage and you’re preparing for what you’re going to see in the future. It was definitely a benefit.
Q: You played against guys like LaMelo Ball, Rocket Watts and others. Who was the toughest team and toughest player you played against?
A: There were a lot of big games nationally televised. Just the competition and the hype of the games was great. I really enjoyed it. We played against five or six McDonald’s All-Americans. Just to be able to go at those type of players and beat some of them was great. We beat (No. 2 player in 2019 Class by 247Sports.com) Anthony Edwards’ team (Holy Spirit School). We lost to IMG Academy, but it was neck and neck in the fourth quarter. The best player I matched up against was Edwards. I was guarding him half of the game. Best player we played against was (Memphis East’s) James Wiseman (No. 1 player in Class of 2019). That dude was a monster. We lost by one point. I hit a go-ahead bucket at the last second. But then they came down and set Wiseman up for a last shot. He got fouled and hit two free throws to win.