Dante and Dyon Bartley never shy away from competing with one another. Their competitive nature has always driven them. The two brothers, both key members of the Woodruff boys’ varsity basketball team, share a love of the game, however, that also cements a close bond that allows them to be the others’ biggest supporter.
The Bartley brothers, who moved to Woodruff with their family from Florida three years ago, still had to adjust to a new state, new school, and a different brand of basketball than they played in the Sunshine State.
“It wasn’t the easiest transition,” said Dante. “At my old school, it was in a bigger town. It was a lot different coming to a small town like Woodruff where everyone knows each other. It really wasn’t that bad and it went smooth. Where we used to play, it was more athletic, a lot more athletes. Here it is more of a team style with a lot more passing and fundamentals.”
Dante, a senior reserve point guard, is the elder statesman. Dyon, a junior, is playing his first varsity season and has emerged as the Wolverines’ star and leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game.
Both brothers have a role and they fill them well. Dante, who stands about five inches shorter than Dyon, always took their competition to a higher level going up against his bigger little brother.
“The rivalry, we still have it,” Dante said. “I still handle him most of the time. (Dyon) has been bigger than me since about the first grade.”
Dante and Dyon each have their own style. Dante being more of a defensive specialist and expert passer, and Dyon an offensive force that scores from inside and out. While they have a fierce rivalry against one another, they are also each other’s biggest cheerleader.
“You have trust in your brother and your family,” said Dyon. “You want to show out for him. Us together, there is no stopping us.”
Woodruff head coach Bryan McConnell says that you can see the closeness Dante and Dyon share in practice and during games. For McConnell, he sees more of a tight-knit bond than a personal competition between the two.
“Like any siblings, they are competitive, but we do not actually see it much because they are team-first kind of guys,” said McConnell. “If anything, what we see as coaches, is how well they play together. That brotherly bond is always there we feel.”
That connection has helped the Wolverines to a solid start. Wins over a good 5A Laurens team and the Wolverines’ first road victory over Chapman in 11 years have given the team a confidence that they can compete with anyone, says Dyon.
“The season has been up and down so far, but the Chapman win gave us a big spark. We are just now becoming a team. The ceiling for this team is however high we want it to be. We just have to come to work every day.”
Looking back on their move three years ago, the extroverted Dyon added that it was bit easier for him than the more soft-spoken Dante, but that Dante had an advantage as he had more early experience on the varsity level.
“It was easier for me because I’m friendly and want to talk to everybody and meet new people,” Dyon said. “Basketball wise it was probably better for (Dante). He played on the varsity team first and I played football too so he learned quicker how basketball is played up here.”
Said Dante, “It’s great playing with Dyon. He’s gotten a lot better since our younger days when we used to play in the yard.”
Coach McConnell is just happy to have Dante and Dyon on his team, noting that they are the kind of players and young men he wants to infuse the program with.
“Dante and Dyon both are vital parts of our program and varsity basketball team,” said McConnell. “I jokingly tell my wife every year I pray for some basketball transfers, and the year we got the Bartley boys I was thrilled to have not one, but two guys that loved basketball and could really help us. More importantly is not their skill but them as people. I would take both of them as sons. They are very different but both unique individuals. Over the last three years it has been a pleasure to be their coach.”
By Garrett Mitchell, Contributing Writer