SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Bucknell Basketball Hall of Famer Michael C. Bright and Sons

Dec 4, 2019

Michael C. Bright and his sons are the latest guests on "SportsJam with Doug Doyle". Pictured outside WBGO are: Michael Jr. (far left), dad, Marlen (front) and Debon (far right)
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Michael C. Bright, who is the President and CEO Of the YMCA of Newark, is a member of the Bucknell University Athletics Hall of Fame. 

Bright set numerous school and conference records as a member of the Bison basketball team, including most three pointers made in a career with 206 and most steals in a career.  He was the Patriot League player of the year as a senior in 1993. 

Bright also had opportunity to play in the NBA pre-season rookie league as a member of the Charlotte Hornets and was drafted in the third round of the CBA by the Rockford Lightning.  After a brief stay in the CBA,  the 2005 inductee of the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame, played in the Hong Kong Professional Basketball Association of a member of Sea Power.  

Michael and his wife Christinia are proud parents of three sons who have already made their mark in the sports world.  SportsJam host Doug Doyle sat down recently with Michael and his sons Debon (23 years old), Michael Jr. (19 years old) and Marlen (12 years old) to talk about family life and their achievements in sports.

Michael C. Bright attended Monessen High School in Pennsylvania where he excelled at football and basketball.  During his senior season he led his football team to a first place finish in the conference and a first round playoff berth.  His football awards included All-Conference (Tri-County South) and Honorable Mention All-State.

A young Michael C. Bright (right) celebrates a state basketball title at Monessen High School in PA
Credit Michael C. Bright

Michael's play on the basketball court was even more impressive.  As co-captain of the PIAA Class A Boy's State Championship team, Bright led the Greyhounds to a 24-5 record while recording Monessen's first Class A basketball title. 

"We were a pretty talented team.  We were kind of blessed for a small school to have so much talent at one time.  We were the only Class A school to be invited to Las Vegas to play in the Las Vegas Shootout.   Although we did not win a game, we were 0-3, the first game we lost by one.  The second game we lost by three and we're very competitive against teams that were nationally ranked.  That put Monessen on the map and we came back and that let us know we had a chance to win the states and we went all the way through and did something that was never done before."

Michael remembers how much of a role sports played in his life early on.

"Back then you played outside all day and you found ways to engage with your friends and stuff and it was always around sports for us.  So we played year round football, basketball, baseball and the streets taught be how to play basketball."

At the end of his high school career, Michael was awarded the Judge Charles E. Marker Scholar Athlete Award (for basketball), given to the most outstanding scholar-athlete in Westmoreland County.  The rising star eventually would land in the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame.

After high school, Michael Attended famed prep school Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia where he led the Blue Devils to an impressive 21-8 season record. 

Michael C. Bright is a member of the Bucknell University Athletics Hall of Fame
Credit Michael C. Bright

Bright went on to enroll at Bucknell Unviersity and became a legendary basketball player.  There he was one of only two players in the history Bucknell basketball to record more than 1,500 points and 800 rebounds. 

Michael graduated as the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer in 1993.  He was named to the Patriot League All-Decade Team for years of 1990-2000.

After his professional career in the Hong Kong Professional Basketball Association, Michael turned his focus to helping others.

The Hall of Famer has spent two decades working for YMCA's in various states across the county with his most recent position as President/CEO for the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity. 

Bright takes great pride and pleasure in watching his three sons grow up to be sports stars too.

"I'm very proud of my sons.  One of the things that parents who are probably in the same situation I'm in, we see it all, the good days the bad days but at the end of the day it's about them having exposure and experience so they can find themselves and find out what they love.  We only have one rule that we all share.  If it start something you have to finish, there's no quitting. I don't ever want them to think they have to perform like I did in high school or college because everything is different.  But I do want them to try and get exposure, that's the biggest thing."

Debon Bright was a top scorer and a defensive specialist for DePaul Catholic
Credit Michael C. Bright

Michael's son Debon is 23 years old and is taking a year off a basketball and taking classes at Essex County College.  Debon has followed in his dad's footprints on the hardwood.  Debon was a two-time All County player at DePaul Catholic High school.  He was a top 5 scorer in the state of New Jersey in 2015.  He then played for Robinson School, the #2 nationally ranked prep school in 2016.  He went on to become a starter as a freshman on the Felician University basketball team. 

Debon says his father never forced sports on any of his kids.

"If we loved doing it he was going to support us.  A lot of my game he helped me develop.  He was always giving me advice.  He was basically my biggest critic and my biggest fan."  

Debon still has plenty of goals in basketball.  He not only can shoot the lights out but he takes pride in his defensive play.

"I think a lot of coaches would agree that I'm a pretty decent defender."

Debon's brother Michael Jr. calls him a "lockdown" type of defensive player.

Debon has already been a stud on the court, with numerous tournament championship in AAU basketball.  Like his dad, he also played football for awhile, being a part of the New York State Champion Jr. Pee Wee team.

Michael Bright Jr. has verbally committed to Bucknell University to play football for the Bison
Credit Michael C. Bright

19-year old Michael Bright Jr. also played on championship youth teams and has stayed with the sport.  The 6'5" star has verbally committed to playing football in the fall at Bucknell University. 

While at Shabazz, Michael Jr. was an All-State Selection who playe din the North v. South Phil Simms All-Star Game.  After finishing up his most recent season at highly touted Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, Bright intends to sign to play his college football at Bucknell.

"I plan to sign on National Signing Day in February.  My goal is just to go out there and ball.  My dad's up there on all the records for basketball, I want to do the same for football."

Dad was obviously happy with his son's choice.

"Bucknell is a great school.  I personally believe if Michael stays on this path and does what he has to do in the classroom and on the field, I believe he can join me in the Hall of Fame."

12-year old Marlen Bright is already enjoying lifting football trophies as part of the Brick City Lions youth football teams
Credit Michael C. Bright

12-year old Marlen Bright may eventually become the best athlete of the family.  He's off to a great start.  He's helped is Newark's Brick City Lions teams win titles.  His Pee Wee team won the 2018 Eastern Region and his current Junior Varisty Brick City Lions squad is headed to the 2019 National Championships later this month.   

Marlen plays on both the offensive and defensive lines for his football team.  He'd like to see the guys in the trenches get more recognition for their hard work on the field.

"It makes me feel frustrated because they're not giving the linemen credit.  Without the line you can't do anything."  

Marlen is already lifting weights and training hard and it's paying off.  His brother Michael says at times Marlen has had the knickname "IHOP" because he usually pancakes opposing players in his way.  What's dad's advice for Marlen when playing on the line?

"He says fight hard, don't give up." 

Marlen's favorite football player of all-time is former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis.  However, the youngest of the Bright family made it clear he was the not a Steelers fan like his other brothers.

The Bright family members support each other, especially at this Hotchkiss football game for Michael Jr.
Credit Michael C. Bright

If his son's didn't follow sports would that have mattered to Michael C. Bright?

"Not at all.  From day one, it's always been about their health and happiness.  That's the only things that matter to me. 

Dad says his best day is any day they are all together.

Click above to hear the entire SportsJam with Doug Doyle interview with the Bright family.