HANNIBAL | Jayden Durst and Bryce Stark were on opposite sides of the Palmyra and Monroe City rivalry, but will soon join forces with the Hannibal-LaGrange University men's basketball team.
The two All-State senior guards are part of a talented freshmen class entering HLGU for the 2020-21 season, which will be coached by Jason Durst, Jayden's father.
Coach Durst said HLGU's recruiting efforts focused on local athletes and freshman, as the Trojans only return four upperclassmen to their program next season.
“Bryce gives us an athletic guard who we can use at the point guard or wing positions, and he is a high level defender,” Coach Durst said. “Jayden will also provide some athleticism and will be a scoring threat from the perimeter. We feel these are two big pieces that will compliment our returners and prepare us to compete at our level.”
Jason Durst said he has coached his son on and off during his basketball career and is looking forward to watching him mature as a player in the next level of competition.
“Having the opportunity to be his college coach is something I have thought a lot about and I am looking forward to continue into this stage of our life together,” Coach Durst said. “He is a very coachable guy and has a passion for the game. I think it is going to be a fun experience because he is a gym rat and loves basketball just like me.”
Both players made a huge impact in the Clarence Campbell Conference, with Durst and Stark being named Co-Players of the Year. Stark averaged 9.4 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 2.3 steals per game and dished out 123 assists. Durst averaged 16.5 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game and shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Palmyra boys basketball head coach Ryan Wood said Durst and Stark developed a great relationship off the court during their years competing against each other.
“They both have some of the same attributes with their love for the game and their urgency to get better all the time,” Wood said. “After some of the intense game they've competed against each other, it'll be nice for both of them to enjoy each other's company by wearing the same uniform. Although Monroe got the best of us, those types of games and environments are the ones kids will remember the most about high school sports.”
Monroe City and Palmyra played four times during the past season, with Monroe City winning all four games by a close margin.
Stark came through with a game-tying shot to force overtime in the first meeting, and a steal from Durst, along with the game-winning basket in the third game. Durst nearly led a Palmyra comeback at the Tony Lenzini Tournament in January with a 12-point fourth quarter.
In the fourth meeting of the year, Monroe City edged Palmyra 49-43 to win the district title. Stark would help Monroe City earn their first trip to the state Final Four in 25 years.
Monroe City boys basketball head coach Brock Edris has known Stark since he attended youth basketball camps 10 years ago, and said it has been a pleasure watching him mature and grow as a young man.
“(Stark) has made many terrific plays over the years, and especially this season,” Edris said. “My favorite moments as a coach would be seeing Bryce succeed on and off the floor, learn from his mistakes, just letting him know how proud and how much I care about him.”
Edris said he cannot wait to watch Stark and Durst play together as teammates.
“Coach Durst picked up two tremendous basketball players, but better yet, high character young men that will be coachable and represent HLGU's basketball program and school in a positive light,” Edris said. “I see Bryce and Jayden playing big roles for Coach Durst in the next few years. It's hard to walk into a four-year program and expect playing time right away as a freshman, but knowing these two players, they are competitors and will do the bet they can to help the Trojans win.”
Jason Durst was able to coach both players last summer when they played together on a traveling team. He said they are both team-first players who enjoy seeing their teammates succeed.
“It is going to be fun to see them compete together again and not against each other,” Coach Durst said. “Their skill sets compliment each other very well, with both of them being able to create shots for themselves and also their teammates. When they played together, it was fun to see them feed off of each other and encourage each other.”
Wood said Durst meant a lot to the Palmyra basketball program due to his love for the game and his effect on his teammates to make them better. He added it will be a lot of fun to watch Durst play with his father at HLGU.
“If he's not playing basketball, he's watching basketball,” Wood said. “When I first started coaching Jayden, he had skill and athletic ability, but was raw in terms of decision making. He has matured mentally in the game and has grown into one of the area's best players.”
Edris said Stark was one of Monroe City's leaders during his time with their basketball program.
“I'm excited for Bryce to continue his academic and athletic career at HLGU,” Edris said. “Bryce played a very important role for our basketball team over the past few years and helped guide our team to the Class 3 Final Four Tournament.”