Scott McIntosh and Darnel Fox were frustrated. Usually efficient teammates, they were struggling to connect during a local Gus Macker 3v3 basketball tournament in the summer of 2000. They stood together at halftime, the sweat pouring off their bodies in the glaring Indiana sun, arguing about what to do next.
That was when Bryant, Scott’s son and Fox’s godson, popped up. “You guys aren’t moving the ball fast enough, and you aren’t moving off the ball very well,” he said.
That’s one of Fox’s fondest memories of Bryant McIntosh at an early age.
“He couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old,” he said, laughing. “A little six-year-old, telling us how to play the game. I couldn’t believe it.”
Under the guidance of his father and Fox, McIntosh grew into a top-level Northwestern recruit. His passion and dedication to the mental side of the game continues to set him apart, according to those who know him best.
“He’s a really good student of the game. People have no idea,” Scott said. “It’s over-the-top how smart he is basketball-wise.”
McIntosh grew up in New Castle, Ind., a rural town southeast of Indianapolis with a population of about 11,000. As early as age four, his father, already an experienced coach, began bringing Bryant to his practices. Afterward they would work on Bryant’s shooting form on a tiny nerf goal on the back of the door at home.
When Bryant was in preschool, his father flubbed his birth certificate so that he could play in a kindergarten league. As he grew older, he played on a variety of AAU teams, including teams coached by Red Taylor and his own father. One thing stayed constant: He kept getting better.
“It was his eighth grade year, and I saw him score 18 points in the first quarter of a game,” Scott said. “And I looked over at the guy who was coaching, and all I said to him was, ‘I think one day he has a shot to play in the Big Ten.’ It wasn’t three months later IU was at his first open gym in high school.”
But McIntosh struggled to make an impact his freshman year at New Castle, so he and his family decided to make a change.
The summer before his sophomore year, McIntosh transferred from New Castle to Greensburg Community High School in nearby Greensburg, Indiana. He began playing with the Eric Gordon All-Stars, an AAU team that gathered talent from across the state of Indiana. That summer he also received his first college offer, from Indiana State University.
McIntosh's success at Greensburg began turning other heads. In his three-year career at Greensburg, the boy’s basketball program went 77-3. As a sophomore, McIntosh started at point guard for GCHS, leading them to an undefeated regular season and a place in the last 16 of Indiana’s state tournament.
“We had a good basketball team and Bryant really completed that team,” said Stacy Meyer, Greensburg’s head coach. “He’s such an unselfish player, and the biggest contribution is that he’s a winner.”
The mental aspect of McIntosh's game continued to make him stand out against more athletic opposition.
“His biggest strength is how well he sees the floor and his basketball IQ,” Meyer said. “He’s such an unselfish player, and the biggest contribution is that he’s a winner.”
As college coaches crowded gyms McIntosh was playing in, he led GCHS to new heights. With the help of a talented cast that included current Ball State leading scorer Sean Seller, McIntosh lead Greensburg to its first ever state championship in his junior year. The next year they repeated the feat.
“It wasn’t easy,” McIntosh said. “People don’t realize that. We had a lot of talent, but we still had to figure out how to play together, and the bond we formed through that is probably the most memorable thing.”
By then, schools clamored to secure McIntosh’s services. Dozens of schools offered him scholarships, and the choice came down to Xavier, Purdue or Northwestern. But in the end, Northwestern offered something the other schools couldn’t.
“I can be a part of the first team to make it [to the NCAA tournament],” McIntosh said. “We can make history here.”
McIntosh’s performances during his first season in Evanston have proven the brilliance of head coach Chris Collins’ recruiting. As a freshman McIntosh has averaged 33.3 minutes per game as of March 5. He is fifth in the Big Ten is assists per game (4.7) and in the top 25 in nearly every other category, from points per game (11.5) to free throw percentage (84.4 percent).
“I thought he was good anyway, but after seeing what Coach Collins has done with him this year, I think he can do whatever he wants if he sets his mind to it,” McIntosh's father said.
Winning isn’t everything, however. Off the court, the McIntosh family describes itself as “tight-knit.” Both Scott McIntosh and Fox attend nearly every game in person, at home or away.
Having been around the game for as long as he could walk and talk, basketball seems to have become a part of McIntosh. True to Northwestern’s intellectual reputation, he continues to grow as player through his commitment to the mental side of the game.
“The kid watches film more than anyone else I know,” said Gavin Skelly, McIntosh’s roommate and another member of this year's powerful recruiting class. “He loves it.”
According to Tad Gilbert, a graduate manager who helps with the team’s video resources, McIntosh asks for more film than any other player he’s ever worked with.
McIntosh is interested in sports management and hopes to one day be a college coach. But his dream is to play in the NBA. Either way, as Scott puts it, the sky’s the limit.
“Playing in the NBA is a far-fetched dream for a 6 foot 3 inch white kid,” McIntosh's father said. “But if anyone can prove me wrong, it'll be him.”