Bridgewater has a chance with two sports

BATON ROUGE -- Brian Bridgewater is dealing with the best kind of problem these days.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound junior is just getting underway with his spring football season at Episcopal High School. Although he's only been playing tight end for about a year, Bridgewater is quite a natural. His brief stint on the gridiron has picked up the attention of LSU, which offered the hometown prospect a scholarship earlier this year. Bridgewater has also received an offer from Ole Miss, and he has been in contact with football royalty like Alabama and Oregon in recent weeks.

"Really I wasn't even looking at it from (a recruiting standpoint) at that point in time," Bridgewater said. "I was just doing it for my friends, and I actually ended up being pretty good so it just kind of happened."

If Bridgewater is good enough to get attention at a sport he's only dabbled in, he must be quite a force at his first love -- basketball. Bridgewater said he'll return to the court this summer when football is over, when he will hope to improve his stock as a basketball recruit. He's no slouch in that regard, either, as his career leading the Episcopal Knights' hoops team has caught the attention of the likes of Arizona and Duke.

"Right now I'm just going through the process with both of them and keeping my mind open ... but I'm not sure yet," Bridgewater said.

Since football and basketball are two of the most demanding sports at the collegiate level, the only question now is, which one to choose? It's certainly an envious position to be in, but it's a choice Bridgewater will have to make some time soon.

"He's in a good position, because he's got good choices in either sport that he chooses," said Chris Beckman, Bridgewater's basketball coach at Episcopal. "It would be hard to play both and be a student as well. I think it's going to be a tough decision but a good decision because it's not like he's got all his eggs in one basket."

Bridgewater is going into his senior season without an abundance of experience on the football field, and that might be something Beckman said could lead to a redshirt. On the hardwood, he said Bridgewater is one of his most dominant big men by necessity -- but that will have to change should he choose basketball.

"When he gets to the next level in basketball, if he chooses to play, he'll get better with his outside game," Beckman said. "In high school he's got to play inside in the post ... but at the college level he'll be able to expand his game, which he does during the summer in AAU."

Just how well Bridgewater develops this summer could determine the route he takes heading into the fall. With the hectic schedule of fall football recruiting and basketball's early signing period both looming, he said he'd like to figure things out sooner rather than later.

"I'm going to see how my summer goes with basketball. I had a great (junior) season, and if I'm really high in the rankings, I'm probably going to stick with basketball," he said.

Hoops definitely seems to be chief among Bridgewater's concerns at this juncture. But he hopes a successful spring season can help him along the way to his decision.

"Last year I did it because of my friends, but I'm not really into it right now. But I'll still do it for a few of my friends," he said. "We'll see how the spring goes right now. It's really an honor for me to be recruited by the two top teams in the nation, and it's kind of overwhelming. So I'll just go through it right now."

One thing worth remembering to ease Bridgewater's mind is the amount of crossover success for college basketball players. In Louisiana especially, young athletes are all too familiar with basketball-to-football success stories like that of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Beckman said given the right opportunities, Bridgewater should always have a fallback.

"Even if he does choose basketball ... if it's not going to work out as well, I think any football coach would take him on their team," Beckman said. "I think anybody would give him an opportunity just based on his athletic ability and size, and that's something he needs to remember ... His heart is in basketball, but he's got a chance to be a really good football or basketball player."