Just call him AB Positive, because basketball is in his blood.
Anthony Bruner played basketball at Southeastern for coach Tony Robinson in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
He sparked the Savages to 38 wins in those two campaigns and finished his Southeastern career in the National Tournament in his senior year.
The All-America designation is a rare honor, but for AB Positive, it was sort of old hat when he was named second-team All-America following his senior season.
Bruner had already been named high school All-America and junior college All-America.
Two of his three All-America awards came when he played for Robinson, the first one at Norman High School and the last one at Southeastern.
He played two years at Bacone Junior College before transferring to Southeastern.
Coach Robinson said, “As a 14-year-old at Norman, he walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, Tony, what time is the bus leaving?’ I kinda got in his face and we got things sorted out. That is how I got introduced to Anthony.
“He was a tremendous offensive player who could create his own shots. I was trying to get the other players involved and put in an offense that called for four passes before we shot the ball.
“As it turned out, I was the only one who could hold him under 20 points a game.”
Things worked out well, though, as Robinson’s 1990 team went undefeated and won the state title.
Tyrone Stafford was Bruner’s teammate on the Southeastern club that went to the national tournament.
Stafford said, “My first recollection of AB was when he walked into Bloomer Sullivan Gym with a pair of basketball shoes in his hand and a pair of wide eyes. It was like he was glad to be back in a place where be felt very comfortable.
“The basketball court was his refuge, as it was for many of us. Well, until Coach Rob was in one of his states of dislike for everything we were doing and then we would try to make haste and get to our dorm rooms as quickly as possible.
“From the first shot he took, I knew this guy could play. I knew of his exploits from his basketball days at Norman High School, but I only knew about them from a distance. I knew Norman had some good teams that were well coached and played defense like no tomorrow, but I really didn’t put into context that they had guys who could fill up a box score as well. AB was one of those guys.”
Bruner almost didn’t make it to Southeastern.
Robinson said, “He had a girlfriend in Norman and spent too much time there. I just didn’t think it would work out and I told him so.
“One day, he came to see me and said everything he owned was on the front porch of Bloomer Sullivan Gym. I still had reservations, but we talked and he really got after it. He took lots of summer classes and got eligible and stayed with us while he was doing that. He became like a son to us.”
Bruner came to Southeastern as a junior and was the leading scorer. As a senior, he was the second-leading scorer and at one point, led the nation when he averaged 27 points a game.
Southeastern’s national-tournament team struggled for a while, then won 11 in a row.
Robinson said, “We spent a night in Enid on the way to Northwestern and worked out in the high school gym. I put in a whole new offense to feature Anthony and we beat Northwestern the next night.
“He was probably the best offensive player I’ve ever coached.”
Stafford recalled Bruner loved to play dominos and he was also a barber.
“He cut a lot of athletes’ hair, basketball and football players, maybe some others as well. He loved his shoes and his polo shirts … oh, and his cologne. More than anything, he loved the game of basketball.
“Sometimes I would sit and marvel at how easy he made the game look. His free-throw line jumper was SWEET. I don’t ever recall seeing him missing that thing. He was just an all-around good player.”
Robinson said, “Anthony was just a great player. He was a tremendous free-throw shooter and 3-point shooter. He has done well after Southeastern. He was a clothing designer, operates a couple of gyms in San Diego and until recently, he was still playing in some leagues out there.”
AB left Southeastern with the sixth-best single-season scoring mark of 788 points in 1995-96, while making 104 of 204 three-pointers for 51 percent. Both 3-point attempts taken and made were single-season records. He was tied for fourth with 61 steals in his junior year and fourth in career steals with 115.
He was named Southeastern’s Male Athlete of the Year for 1995-96.
Bruner said, “Okay, I really don’t like to talk about all my awards, so I will just give you some information. I was high school All-American, JC All-American and Southeastern All-American. We had an undefeated season in high school and I was Player of the Year in 1991.
“I played for Coach Robb in high school and he was a father figure for me and all his players. Southeastern was a tight family. The whole town took me in, the University made me feel at home. Everyone knew who you were.
“I give credit to my coach and teammates for this Hall of Fame honor. Teammates set the screens and everything else.”
Robinson said, “Anthony is very deserving of this honor and we’re all looking forward to the induction ceremony.”
Harold Harmon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.