University of Kansas

Former KU guard Nick Bradford relishes ‘great journey’ with Jr. NBA players from KC

Nick Bradford, who played at Kansas during 1997-2000, coached the Missouri Phenom at last week’s Jr. NBA Global Championship in Florida.
Nick Bradford, who played at Kansas during 1997-2000, coached the Missouri Phenom at last week’s Jr. NBA Global Championship in Florida. 1999 Star photo

Eager to help publicize the Missouri Phenom AAU program, Nick Bradford agreed to wear a microphone for Fox Sports during Sunday’s championship game of the Jr. NBA Global Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Lots of people were watching the national cable TV broadcast as former University of Kansas guard Bradford’s U.S. Central Region girls team — which included eight Phenom players — thumped Canada, 72-35, in front of a crowd that included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“I thought it was awesome for the girls. We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s good for them to get out there and get TV exposure. These kids are getting recruited by a lot of schools,” Bradford said of athletes on the 10-player Central team.

“A lot of coaches called during the week (in which the 13- and 14-year olds went 7-0 in Florida),” added Bradford, who said he was moved by all the congratulations he and the players received on social media after the Central Region won the the tourney for the second year in a row.

“Coach Williams called,” Bradford said of North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who coached Bradford at KU from 1996-2000. “Coach Robinson (Steve, former KU assistant now at UNC) saw it (on TV), which is awesome as well.”

Bradford was so overwhelmed he wrote on Twitter: “Thanks so much to everyone who reached out the last few days. It was a great journey. Now back to school.”

Formerly the girls coach at Olathe North the past two seasons, Bradford is set to begin his first season as head JV and assistant varsity boys basketball coach at his own alma mater, Fayetteville (Arkansas) High School.

Next summer he’ll coach the Phenom’s Under-17 AAU team.

“The last two years, to have the champion come from our program and players from neighboring states ... winning internationally is pretty cool,” Bradford said. “It lets everybody know there’s great talent in the Midwest. This is a great group of kids, an unselfish group. It’s a great group of parents. The kids have fun, want to work hard and be coachable and get to the next level. They want to learn and get better,” added Bradford, who was assisted by former Washburn University player Jordan Canfield.

In Sunday’s title game, Central Team USA forced 26 turnovers while holding Canada to 28.8 percent shooting. Kiara Smith, a guard from Topeka, scored 15 points and Jada Williams, a guard from Blue Springs, contributed 11 points.

Chloe Clardy, a guard from Conway, Arkansas, had nine points and six assists and S’mya Nichols, a guard/forward from Overland Park, totaled eight points with nine rebounds and five assists.

Also, Brooklyn DeLeye, a guard/forward from Auburn, Kansas, had nine points and five rebounds; Grace Slaughter, a guard from Grain Valley, eight points; Jada Ingram, a forward from Topeka, seven rebounds and three points; Zoe Canfield, a guard from Auburn, Kansas, six points off two threes; Ke’Ayla Madison, a guard from Ankeny, Iowa, two points and Tkiyah Nelson, a guard from St. Louis, one point.

On Saturday, Nichols, Williams and Clardy combined for 42 points in a 73-57 victory over the West in the U.S. championship game.

“They are good students. I want to say all straight A’s, maybe two B’s in there,” Bradford said. “They are good students and kids, focused and unselfish. You have to be unselfish to play with a team that’s as good as that. You can’t help but have fun coaching kids like that,” Bradford concluded.

Bradford, 40, laughed when asked if he’s destined to be a standout college women’s head basketball coach some day.

“That’s Terry Nooner,” Bradford exclaimed of his former KU teammate and former Missouri Phenom coach. “He’s with the Texas Longhorns (hired last week as UT assistant after working for the Cleveland Cavs last year).”

The Jr. NBA Global Championship is a youth basketball tournament for the top 13- and 14-year old boys and girls teams from around the world. Qualifying competitions started in January and ran through June, with the top 32 boys and girls teams receiving all-expenses-paid trips to compete in the Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando.

Caleb Love fares well at Nike camp

Caleb Love, a 6-3 senior-to-be point guard from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, who is ranked No. 32 in the recruiting Class of 2020 by Rivals.com, played well at last weekend’s Nike Skills Academy in California, Rivals.com reports.

“The four-star guard out of St. Louis began the camp in the best manner possible. He didn’t settle for long-distance attempts but rather attacked the basket, made the proper pass whenever it was presented and defended both guard positions without much drop-off at either spot,” writes Corey Evans of Rivals.com. “Love has only gotten better and shined against the elite of the elite in attendance. He is down to a final six and will visit Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Missouri and North Carolina before coming to a decision,” Evans adds.

Barnes ‘still has room to improve’

Scottie Barnes, a 6-8 senior-to-be power forward from Montverde Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also excelled at Nike camp, according to Rivals.com’s Evans.

He is ranked No. 6 in the recruiting Class of 2020 by Rivals.com.

“The five-star is the definition of a utility knife that is best used as a small ball power forward. I’m not sure how great Barnes can be, but he sure is going to maximize every ounce of talent that he was blessed with. He has begun to shoot it better but still has room to improve,” writes Evans. “However, he is a lock-down defender that makes his teammates around him better. Oregon remains the most talked about landing spot for Barnes, but Kansas, Kentucky, Miami and Ohio State are in the mix as well.”

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