It didn't take long for Bryan Layton to catch the eye of Seth Coffing as a freshman on the Alcona JV basketball team.
Even then, the Tigers' varsity coach knew Layton had a great deal of potential to succeed at the varsity level.
"It was pretty obvious when he was a freshman that he was going to be a force at the varsity level," Coffing said. "He's a really strong athletic kid, he jumps well, moves really well for his size and he's gradually gotten better and better with his offensive skills."
News Photo by James Andersen
Alcona boys basketball player Bryan Layton, center, signed a Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play basketball at Olivet College in the fall. Pictured behind Layton, left to right are, Alcona head coach Seth Coffing, Brad Cole, Tim Somers, Perry Budreau and Darwin Ginder.
Layton's abilities on the Tigers' JV team saw him move up as a sophomore where he became a mainstay for Alcona, improving every year and helping the Tigers win 45 games in the 2 1/2 years he played on the varsity squad.
Layton's success on the basketball court in high school has earned him the opportunity to continue his basketball career at the collegiate level after he signed a letter of intent to play with Olivet College on Wednesday.
"It's nice to get everything out of the way and know where I'm going and try and get everything organized; just to know where I'm going to be and what I'm going to do," Layton said.
After finishing 4-21 season last year, the Comets will gladly accept the talents Layton has to offer. In addition to helping Alcona win 45 games during his time on the varsity team, Layton helped the Tigers win two Huron Shores Conference titles and two district titles. In his senior year, Layton averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, while helping lead Alcona to a 19-4 record as well as conference and district titles for a second straight season. He earned first-team all-Huron Shores honors and was named to the All-Alpena News boys basketball team on the first team along with teammate Jared Steiner.
Layton also also excelled as a member of Alcona's soccer and baseball teams and said he plans to enter Olivet's pre-med program with hopes of becoming a doctor.
"He's a perfect example of a really good small-school athlete; playing three sports and excelling at all three," Coffing said. "He's been a really huge part of our basketball program the last three years, the last two years in particular with our success."
Just as Layton will be starting a new chapter in his athletic career, so too will the Comets, who recently hired Chris Coles as their new head coach. Coles spent five years as an assistant coach at Saginaw Valley State University and was a big part of the reason Layton ultimately chose Olivet. Layton met Coles at SVSU as a sophomore during a basketball camp and kept in contact with him.
With several colleges looking at him, including Grand Valley State, Northwood, and Lake Superior State, Layton was drawn to Olivet because of the similarities he saw between the campus and his home town. Despite the Comets' record last season, Layton said he's excited to be part of Olivet's rebuilding efforts and is looking forward to the team improving each year.
"They struggled last year. They were 4-21, so it's going to be nice to be try and build something up and be a successful basketball team," Layton said. "There's going to be a lot of incoming freshmen and we're going to be playing together for four years so we're going to get to know each other pretty well and be a successful basketball team by the time it's over."
While Coles has been with the Comets only a short time, he hasn't been shy about making moves to make the team better. He's dismissed a number of players from the team, according to Layton, due to poor work ethic.
Though he isn't sure what position he'll play just yet, Layton knows he'll have to work hard to earn a starting spot and it's a challenge he gladly accepts.
"I'm want to be successful. I'm not used to losing and I don't like losing, so I want to be successful," Layton said. "I'm one of the most competitive people you'll probably ever meet in your life and I want to be successful in everything I do, so I want that starting spot."
Coffing aknowledged that while the Tigers can't immediately replace what Layton brought to the team, they have a good program in place that will allow them to keep reloading even as players like Layton move on to bigger things.
Coffing hopes that the strong work ethic and example that Layton showed in his time as a Tiger will inspire other players who have dreams of playing college basketball.
"I think a day like today is a help to that because hopefully the younger kids can see that that is in reach if you put the time in and you work as hard as you can, as somebody like Bryan has," Coffing said.