Senior Seton Hall guard Bryce Aiken takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby:
Q: When you hear Jersey Pride, what does that mean to you?
A: I don’t know if Jersey Pride is something that you can really define, I think you just gotta embody it. It’s an energy and it’s a way of life, honestly. It’s an approach, a mentality that people have, whether it be in athletics, whether it be a student of a specific craft, whether it be a teacher. Jersey just has a lot of pride, people respect the culture that they represent. And in short, I would say anyone who would ask that would just say it’s Jersey Against The World and I think that saying in itself really sheds the light on that.
Q: How would you compare New Jersey guards with New York City guards?
A: New Jersey guards definitely got more game (laugh).
Q: You’re gonna piss off a lot of New York City guards, I hope you realize that.
A: (Laugh) All respect to ’em, but New Jersey guards got more game.
Q: What do you like best about this Seton Hall team?
A: This team has a lot of interesting guys, and we really mix well. Everybody here just wants to get the best out of the next individual, and for one of the first times in my career I’m a part of a team where everybody has really bought in to chasing this common goal to be the best team that we can be, and potentially win a championship.
Q: You think this team is capable of winning a championship?
A: Nah, I don’t think that — I know that.
Q: How does visualization help you?
A: Before anything, you gotta be able to visualize your goals. You have to be the person who believes in you before anybody else will. Each and every day that’s kind of a mental exercise that I go through, just seeing success. You always gotta visualize success … eliminate the fear. Fear is not real.
Q: Do you visualize cutting down the nets on the last Monday night of the season?
A: Nah, but I visualize (chuckle) me smiling. Which means I won the game.
Q: Jared Rhoden?
A: Jared is a highly energetic individual and player. Off the court he’s pretty chill but when it comes to basketball, he definitely lets that dog out, and he really is the leader of our team and we all feed off his energy once we get on the court. He’s a very talented player, very versatile. And the potential is sky-high for him. I see a lot for him in the future within the game of basketball.
Q: Myles Cale?
A: He’s gonna do everything that you need to do, the most reliable player that we have. He’s gonna defend the best player, he’s gonna make tough shots, he’s gonna be the glue and get everyone together. He’s really that leader that we need, and he embodies that every single day, whether it be in practice or in the game.
Q: From your Twitter: “Nobody changed the world by listening to what the rest of the world was telling them to do.”
A: That’s a really good one. That’s a tremendous quote. Each individual has the power within themselves to express themselves in any manner that they do. A lot of times people place themselves or place their mind in a box. They hear the status quo, and they really just kinda fit in with the norm, because that’s what’s taught in today’s society — nobody really wants to go outside that box and explore themselves and really embrace their individuality which God has placed in their life. Sometimes it can be a fearful thing to do, but most of the people I would call the outliers in life or in the world have the tendency to go out on a limb and really just listen to that inner voice, what drives them and tells them what to do no matter what other people say or how they may feel. As long as it’s with the best intentions I believe that people should listen to that voice inside their head and chase their dreams and go for whatever it is that they aspire towards.
Q: “It you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.”
A: That’s the inner battle between you and yourself on a daily basis. It’s me verse me every day, it’s a mentality. And for anybody, regardless of what area or craft that you’re in, you just gotta be willing in whatever work to maximize your own potential because as long as you do that, you’re gonna shine no matter what.
Q: Your on-court mentality?
A: It’s definitely evolved over the years. Where I am now, I’m much more seasoned, much more mature. When I get on that court, I’m really just trying to have as much fun as I can and just going out there and competing and leaving it all out there on the floor. Whatever happens, happens. I hold myself to really high standards and I want to be the best individual that I can be for myself and for my team. … Basketball I see it as a form of art. It’s an art form that I’m blessed to be able to express myself through. So every time I get out there I just want to be the best that I can be and maximize my potential ’cause that’s ultimately what makes me proud of myself.
Q: Passionate and fearless?
A: You can’t play this game and be fearful in any way. That’s a limitation that you place on yourself. And I love the game. Once I get out there on the court, I don’t think, I just let the energy take me.
Q: Describe your style of play.
A: I pride myself on skill and finesse. I like to do a lot of moves, I do … just be creative out there on the floor and kinda express myself in the way that I feel on a given day.
Q: What did Kyrie Irving mean years ago when he said about you: “He has this old-school feel”?
A: He probably meant that I was just mature for my age. I played kinda beyond my ears and had an understanding of the game that most people didn’t have at that age.
Q: How do you explain the bond you’ve had with Kyrie?
A: Very simple. It’s my brother.
Q: In what way was he a mentor to you?
A: Every way, honestly. Just as any big brother would be.
Q: The best piece of advice he ever gave you.
A: Embrace who you are.
Q: What drives you?
A: Honestly, the world, I would say. I just want to be a great person, a great individual and set an example for the children and all the youth out there in the world and show them as long as you put your best foot forward each and every day and you stay disciplined sky’s their limit. There’s nothing that can stop you except yourself. It’s very important that I embody these words that I speak each and every day.
Q: “Your limitations don’t exist in my world.”
A: There is no such thing as a limitation in the universe. As long as you walk with God all is possible.
Q: “Vision without execution is just a hallucination.”
A: A thought or an idea can just remain a thought or an idea in your head. Millions and millions of people in history probably had tremendous thoughts but they just never acted on it. At some point you just gotta take a chance and run with it.
Q: “If there isn’t a way then make one.”
A: Yup. There’s always a way. Like I said, limitations don’t exist. You just gotta find what works.
Q: “Continue to make noise until they can no longer ignore you.”
A: (Laugh) Well, one, you gotta have a purpose or an intent or a goal in mind, right? And then, never listen to what other people tell you what you can or cannot do. You’re gonna have your doubters, especially in this sports world that we live in. You’ll have so-called naysayers or haters, whatever those words are. But you just gotta use that inner drive and just keep working, and then the day that you do hit that level of success that you’re chasing, there’s not gonna be anything that anybody can tell you otherwise.
Q: Has there been one unfair criticism that bothered you?
A: Honestly, maybe when I was younger. The common one, he’s too small, he’s too little, he’s too weak, he played in the Ivy League … all that stuff, whatever that meant. I’m confident in myself and I’ve been working my butt off each and every day, and I’m just blessed to be in the position that I am. But nowadays, I don’t even pay attention to that stuff.
Q: “The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.”
A: There’s a lot of people in life that speak good words that sound good but they don’t embody it themselves. So people can say whatever they want, they can have an opinion on whatever it is, but unless they exemplify that in their character, then it really doesn’t mean anything. ’Cause it’s all about your actions each and every day if you want to be that example for the youth, or be a leader of your generation, you have to live by your actions.
Q: The Big East conference?
A: Super-talented. Really, really deep this year. So it’s definitely a battle, and it’s fun. You get the best out of each other on a given day and you just gotta respect the game, respect competition, hats off to the other team.
Q: Coach Kevin Willard?
A: He likes to get after it. He’s definitely gotten the best out of me over these past two years and helped me really get back to who I am as a basketball player. I’m really, really thankful for him giving me the opportunity to come and represent this program last year, but to also return for one more year. There’s a lot more in store for him in his own respective career … he’s a genius coach.
Q: This Villanova team and why is Villanova a perennial power?
A: Coach [Jay] Wright, he does a tremendous job of developing his players, so you always gotta respect a coach who’s able to maintain that level of success over such a long period of time. That’s a historic program so hats off to them, hats off to Coach Wright for all the success that he’s been able to achieve. They’re a really, really talented team. They may have gotten off to a rough start, but you can never underestimate them. They’re a national powerhouse for a reason, and rightfully so.
Q: St. John’s?
A: I’ve seen ’em play one or two times, they’re definitely a gritty team that likes to get after it, so that’ll be an exciting game.
Q: Harvard coach Tommy Amaker?
A: Coach Amaker is a really unique coach ’cause he exposes you to a lot of other things outside the game of basketball. As a young 18-year-old kid, to really not try to hear any of that (laugh), you’re really not worried about any of that, but looking back on it, I’m super-thankful for the opportunity and all the people he put in front of me to be able to meet and kinda pick their brains and learn from.
Q: Was your best moment at Harvard scoring 44 points against Columbia?
A: Probably not, because that’s very individualistic. I hit some crazy shots, I’m not gonna lie to you. But best moment was probably winning one of the regular-season titles and getting an Ivy League ring and just celebrating that with my teammates.
Q: The biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?
A: Probably these injuries within basketball. Definitely have to dig really, really deep and just every day claw your way back to where you were before. Because it really is a test to your mental, and your character, and your will. You really go into the recesses of your mind, you start to question if you can ever get back to where you were. And the answer is yes. And you could be better than who you were before.
Q: You can go one-on-one with any guard in NBA history.
A: It would probably be Allen Iverson. I’m a big fan of his game, plays the same position as me, and it’s somebody who isn’t playing during this era that I’m able to witness. And obviously I don’t want to go against no 6-6 opponents (laugh). I’ll pick somebody my size.
Q: You can pick the brain of any guard in NBA history.
A: Kobe Bryant.
Q: What would you ask him?
A: I would just ask him of applying the discipline on a daily basis … really what his routine was, not to get on the court, but to prepare himself mentally to be at the level that he was day in and day out.
Q: How big a thrill was it for you meeting him in high school?
A: Oh my God, it was one of the best moments of my life.
Q: The Patrick School?
A: I think of a lot of historic talent that has passed through that school, a lot of individuals that came before me that kind of paved the way, so super-thankful for them.
Q: The Eagles winning the Super Bowl?
A: I was excited for the organization. That was super dope to be able to witness them win that championship. My oldest brother is a big, big Eagles fan ever since we were young, so that’s where I got my fandom from.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Mansa Musa; Kobe Bryant; Michael Jackson.
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Michael B. Jordan.
Q: Favorite book?
A: “The 11 Laws of God” by Ra Un Nefer Amen.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: It’s changed, I’m vegan now.
Q: How has it helped you?
A: Health is way better, energy level is a lot higher, a lot more clarity in the mind, it helps with focus, concentration, sleep.
Q: Why is Bryce Aiken not scared to be different?
A: I’ve had some amazing, amazing teachers and family in my life, and leaders that I’ve been able to learn from that have taught me just different ways of life, different ways of living to go out and really just embrace who you are. And when you do that, oddly enough the world will embrace you in time.
Q: What do you mean oddly enough?
A: At first, when you go out and really do your own thing and really embrace who you are, people say, “Ah, that person is different, they’re kinda off-the-wall, they have some outside-the-box thoughts.” And people see different almost as a threat because it’s encouraged in our society.
Q: Do you aspire to an NBA career?
A: Yeah, absolutely. It was always a dream of mine as a kid.
Q: Life after basketball?
A: Just want to help change the world. In whatever way that I’m called to do so.
Q: Why is that so important to you?
A: Because there’s a lot of change that needs to happen, and there’s a lot of growth that we can have as a human race. There’s a lot of division, and I just want to see people come together and love one another.
Q: One last Twitter quote: “Who are you going to be when it’s all over?” Who if Bryce Aiken going to be when it’s all over?
A: A creative genius, for the world to appreciate.
Q: Coming home to play for Seton Hall?
A: There’s nothing like having family in those stands cheering and rooting for you every game. Having that love in the arena, it’s really undefinable, like I don’t even have a word for it. But it’s amazing, it’s amazing having that in the arena and being able to just represent New Jersey. Playing for Seton Hall was always a dream of mine, even before attending Harvard.
Q: Your message to Seton Hall fans?
A: Thank you for embracing me. Allowing me to represent this team, this institution, and just being there every step of the way. It’s been a tough climb back up that mountain, and to have the love and support that I do from the fans, it doesn’t go unnoticed and I’m super super-grateful for that. And for the team, just continue supporting, continue showing love, and sky’s the limit for this team. There’s a lot on store for us. So stick with us along the way. It’s gonna be an exciting ride.