Inside Bryson Stott's Transformation Into A Star At UNLV
During the 2016 season, newly named interim Nevada-Las Vegas coach Stan Stolte was trying to juggle his on-field responsibilities with the unenviable task of selling uncertainty to recruits.
Stolte had been promoted to interim head coach the previous December following Tim Chambers’ resignation. UNLV after the season would take the interim tag off Stolte, but in the moment, recruiting wasn’t an easy task. He could offer elite competition, exposure, even a new multimillion-dollar clubhouse on campus. But he couldn’t offer the same stability as other programs and it left him facing an uphill battle.
“There are definitely guys out there I think we could have had if things were different, but I wasn’t going to lie to kids, so I just had to wear it,” Stolte said. “I just knew I didn’t want to go the (junior college) route. I wanted to do it right. And that meant starting local in Las Vegas and working out.”
One of the first local recruits he kept his eye on was the shortstop from Desert Oasis High—Bryson Stott. A talented two-way infielder who was on his way to an all-state season, Stott hit a growth spurt his junior year and was still just beginning to fill out his frame.
He wasn’t a sure thing, but he was a legitimate Division I prospect with interest from Oregon, Arizona and Nevada. Even though both Stott’s mother and father went to UNLV, no one would have blamed him for looking elsewhere given the uncertainty.
But Stott said the decision was never really in doubt.
“Once I got to visit and meet the guys and see the facilities and get to know coach Stolte, I was pretty much sold,” Stott said. “I knew we had the talent, we just had to get guys to believe.”
It took a few years, but UNLV got back on track last season, going 35-24 in the program’s first winning season since 2014. Stott is one of the biggest reasons why the Rebels are making people believe again.
After hitting .294/.359/.379 with 22 walks and just 24 strikeouts as a freshman, Stott’s sophomore campaign was even better. Last year, he led the team in hitting, posting a gaudy .365/.442/.556 slash line with 14 stolen bases and 18 strikeouts. He transformed himself from a player that Stolte once thought “could help us with the bat” into a star.
Last summer Stott earned a spot as the starting shortstop on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and this spring was voted a second-team Preseason All-American by major league scouting directors. He has a chance to become the fourth player from UNLV drafted in the first round.
“He just wasn’t fully developed in high school,” Stolte said. “Make no mistake, we knew he would be good. But if you told me back then that he would be a first-rounder today, I’d have thought it was a stretch.”
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Outfielder Kyle Isbel last season helped Stott carry the offensive load, hitting .357/.441/.643 with 14 home runs. He was drafted by the Royals in the third round.
Isbel watched Stott in the first few days of practice and thought that he would be good. But it wasn’t until he saw his off-field effort that he knew how good.
“His work ethic is insane. He is constantly pushing himself to be better and learning new things,” Isbel said. . “He does all the little things that are so important in baseball to help you get comfortable. Once you get comfortable in baseball, that is when everything starts to click.”
There is no doubt that everything is clicking now for Stott. His advanced approach at the plate and emerging power make him an intriguing prospect as a hitter. But even at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, his arm strength (Stolte said he’s been clocked at 97 mph across the infield), footwork and athleticism give him a real chance to stick at shortstop as a professional.
Now the question is whether UNLV can take the next step. Stolte needs to find replacements for not only Isbel but also his ace, Alan Strong, and his closer, Bryan Menendez. It always helps to be able to plug in a shortstop with more than 110 starts under his belt.
Stott admits that he has noticed the recent influx of attention and has allowed himself to think about the draft and his future. But he has unfinished business he wants to take care of this season and he isn’t going to change his approach now.
“I have been playing this sport since I was 4 years old and it isn’t really all that different now,” Stott said. “I can always get better and I can always help the team get better. I look forward to that stuff, but we still have a lot to accomplish and I want to make sure I do my part.”