What he did: For the past 30 years, Georgia Tech has produced some of the best talent in the NBA. Names such as Mark Price, John Salley, Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Chris Bosh are easy examples.
But one of the players who is responsible for turning the program into one of the nation’s best for many years, only got a cup of coffee in the league. In fact, his NBA run lasted only a few months.
No one was quite sure what to think of Bruce Dalrymple when he arrived on the Flats in the fall of 1985. He had come from a Vermont boarding school via the streets of Harlem. He was only 6-foot-4 with stocky body and chip on his shoulder. But along with the likes of coach Bobby Cremins, teammates Mark Price and John Salley and a few others, they would turn Tech into Atlanta’s most exciting team throughout the 1980s.
Dalrymple started playing basketball at the age of 12 and lived in a five-story building at the corner of 119th Street and Manhattan Avenue in Harlem. It was the middle of a war zone, and Dalrymple’s parents looked for a way to get him out.
Basketball was the answer, and he started playing for coach Ernie Lorch of the Riverside Church Hawks. Lorch was known for mentoring some of New York’s best street talent and helped Dalrymple get a scholarship to St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont.
There, he said, “I think I was the only black basketball player in Vermont,’’ and to help earn his scholarship he woke at six every morning his first semester to wash dishes in the school’s cafeteria.
Dalrymple hit the books at St. Johnsbury, and on the court the school had never seen a player like him before. One writer watching him as a collegian described his play as “a defensive demon who roams the court looking for loose balls the way a free safety does in football.’’
Dalrymple brought St. Johnsbury its first state championship his junior season, and they finished second when he was a senior. He was recruited by many of the nation’s top programs and thought he would either go to Virginia or St. John’s. Then came Cremins, who was building something special in Atlanta and had to convince Dalrymple to come south. It was a tedious process, with Dalrymple close to going to Virginia before he signed with Tech.
As a freshman during the 1983-84 season, Dalrymple joined Price in the Tech backcourt, and the magic began. That season, Tech finished 18-11 and earned a trip to the NIT as Dalrymple, while never a great shooter, was named ACC Freshman of the Year, averaging 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. He also had 65 assists and 40 steals in 29 games.
Then came his sophomore season and with a lineup of Price and Dalrymple, forwards John Salley and freshman Duane Ferrell and center Yvon Joseph, the Yellow Jackets won the ACC Tournament, knocking off North Carolina three times that season, including the tourney final. He scored 12.9 points per game and totaled 122 assists, led the team with 62 steals and brought down 5.9 rebounds per game.
Tech became the nation’s sweetheart as the Jackets rolled into the NCAAs and beat Mercer, Syracuse and Illinois on their way to the East Regional final game against Georgetown. Tech would lose to Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas as Price struggled from the field (3-for-16) that night in Providence, R.I., but Tech basketball had been born.
Before his junior season, Dalrymple and Price graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and Tech would make it back to the regionals, this time losing to LSU in the semifinals. That season, Dalrymple averaged 10.8 points and five rebounds a game as Price and Salley went to the NBA and he was left to lead the team for the 1986-87 season.
It was a disappointing one for the team as Tech finished 16-13 though made the NCAAs, losing again to LSU, but this time in the first round. Dalrymple finished his career that year with 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds a game as Ferrell and Tom Hammonds were starting to put their mark on the team, and Craig Neal moved into Price’s slot at point guard.
When he left Tech, Dalrymple was the first player in ACC history (and now just one of four) to record over 1,500 points (1,588), 700 rebounds (744), 400 assists (446) and 200 steals (227) in a career. Tech was 88-38 in his four years.
The NBA didn’t know what to think about Dalrymple, who always struggled shooting the ball, but was so talented in every other area. But unlike a Dennis Rodman who had similar skills, Dalrymple didn’t have Rodman’s size. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the last pick in the second round (46th overall) of the 1987 NBA Draft. He lasted only a few months, went to the CBA Rockford Lighting in Chicago to finish out the year and retired from basketball. He then returned to Tech, joined Cremins as a graduate assistant and finished his degree.
Dalrymple went into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2010 was honored as an ACC Legend, the conference pointing out that at that time he was only one of 19 players in the ACC to ever perform a triple-double.
Where he lives: Dalrymple, now 51, is not married and resides in Lithia Springs. He has four children, all daughters; Ashley, Taylor, McKenzie and Grace. He has two grandchildren, Madison and Chandler.
What he does now: He graduated from Tech with a degree in textile engineering and for more than 20 years has been successfully working in the field of restoration of commercial properties. He also attends every Tech basketball home game.
On his street game in New York: “I was raw talent with no real skills, but could run and jump. My church coach molded me into playing inside, defense and being a rebounder.’’
On going to boarding school in Vermont: “My coach had an agreement with them, and it was a chance for me to study at a high level and play. My parents were ordinary people, good people, but this was a good thing.’’
On being the only African-American on his high school team: ‘We were a small school that played in the large school division. I was treated well at the school. Now when we went to other schools, it was a little more difficult. I do remember the state championship game we played in. I scored 55 points.’’
On first meeting Cremins: “We met at the Five-Star Basketball Camp in the summer. He had started to watch me the winter of my senior year. He had a lot of work to get me, but I began watching Mark and Salley on television and saw they were building something there.’’
On coming to Atlanta: “I enjoyed it. While I was at Tech I never missed a summer, so I was always here, always in class. It was so segregated up in Vermont, but not here.’’
On his sophomore season: “We knew when we walked out on the court that season we had it … just line up, because we weren’t losing. We went into Duke and won and North Carolina and won. We became the first team outside North Carolina to beat them three times in a season. We could have beaten Georgetown, but Mark was off that night. A lot of people don’t remember that Ewing was in foul trouble for most of that game, but if Mark would have hit a few more shots we win and go to the Final Four.’’
On how good that team was: “I know there have been a lot of good teams since, but I really think that team was the best Tech ever had. Mark could shoot from anywhere. I was all over the court. Duane was the slasher. John had the touch, and Yvon was the force inside. It was a great mix.’’
On Cremins: “He was like a dad to all of us. I think he spent more time with us than his own son. I was blessed to have that man.’’
On Price: “He was quiet, but if you dared him he was the first one to get in your face. We were like a president and vice president of a great corporation.’’
On the best player he faced in college: “No doubt Lenny Bias. He was 6-8 and could do anything with the ball. I played against Michael (Jordan) my freshman year, but I faced Lenny a lot. It wasn’t fun.’’
On his short stint in the NBA: “They had me at point guard. It was the wrong position. I was happy about the opportunity, but it was what it was.’’
On what type of pro player had he been if he was a few inches taller: “I try not to think about that, but I would have been a monster.’’
On whether Tech basketball can return to their glory years: “I think the problem with Tech is they need to reintroduce themselves to the past. They need to understand the lineage. We were a blue-collar team, and I am not saying the current kids don’t play hard, but we played harder. We played a level above that with reckless abandon.’’