AL HAMNIK: PUC shot blocker finds a home with the Peregrines

2013-12-10T19:30:00Z 2013-12-16T14:16:18Z AL HAMNIK: PUC shot blocker finds a home with the PeregrinesAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 10, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Brandon Bradford played on Lew Wallace's 3A state runner-up basketball team in 2010, but never got much recruiting love.

All eyes nationally were on junior Branden Dawson, now at Michigan State.

The 6-foot-5 Bradford was a shot blocker, a human fly swatter, but not much of a scorer. He got some mail from Wright State, Evansville and Southern Illinois, but no solid offers.

It wasn't until a high school showcase game at Purdue University Calumet that he felt truly "wanted."

And he probably wouldn't have been added to the roster had 6-foot-7 guard Russell Byrd of Fort Wayne Blackhawk not backed out with an injury.

Door open. Come on in.

After that game, in a crazy turn of events, the unknown Bradford was approached by a college coach.

"He had this Texas Tech sweatshirt and a Texas Tech binder. I got excited," Bradford said. "I mean, Texas Tech. OK, I can play the freshman role. Redshirt. Then play and improve. I'm thinking about Bobby Knight, thinking about Pat Knight. There's great tradition out there. I'd love to go there.

"He started talking and said: 'My name is Dan Voudre. I'm the head coach of the men's basketball team here at Purdue Cal.'"

Bradford did a double take.

"Purdue Cal? Purdue Cal? OK, I could listen."

And he did, knowing you can't beat financial assistance, a good education, and a chance to play ball again at any level. Not everyone is Duke or Michigan material.

"I'm from Gary. My mama's a hair stylist. That's independence. That's not a salary-based job," Bradford said. "You don't work, you don't eat.

"If somebody tells me they're gonna make sure I had everything I needed when I came to school, make sure my mama doesn't have to take out these loans and things ..."

Brandon Bradford was on board.

He had a decent freshman season, took a year off because of grades, but returned this season and currently is ranked seventh nationally in blocked shots among NAIA Div. II teams.

"Timing has always been a key," Bradford said. "I've watched a lot of film on LeBron (James) and Wilt (Chamberlain) — people who made a statement on defense but also play offense."

As a senior at Wallace, Bradford blocked six shots in the regional win over Plymouth. This season, he had five in the win over St. Francis.

Granted, PUC isn't Division I and that's fine with Bradford, who comes off the bench and plays about 20 minutes a game — a very active 20 minutes.

"We don't have capacity crowds standing and cheering for us," he said. "Before I'm done, I want to make sure we put banners on this wall and win some championships."

His biggest fan watched Tuesday's workout from her car seat. It was daughter Aubrey, who is five months old and loves getting kisses from Dad when he holds her, which is a lot.

"Love my baby girl," he said.

Brandon, fiance' Ashley Eaves, and Aubrey form an unbeatable team.

His Peregrines aren't doing bad either at 9-1.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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