Bradley: "This is Something I Wanted to Do"
I'm not sure if I'll ever be totally comfortable with Michael Bradley giving up his scholarship so that Andre Drummond could play at UConn this season. Not sure I'll ever get over the fact that a kid who grew up in one of the poorest sections of Chattanooga and spent much of his later childhood living in the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home had to give up his free ride to a kid who only decided he'd be attending UConn a few days before classes started.
But maybe I should be. Not because of the e-mailers and bloggers and message board mavens who insist "this is the best thing that ever happened to Michael Bradley" and that he would have had to pay out-of-pocket for a year of pharmacy school, anyway (which likely won't be the case; Mike has taken an interest in business classes and may be leaning that way for his major).
No, I suppose I should be comfortable with it because ... Michael Bradley is comfortable with it. More than just comfortable: this is something he wants to do. Why? To win a national championship.
Now, Bradley didn't tell me this himself. Reached by phone a couple of weeks ago, Bradley referred all questions about the topic to Jim Calhoun. But perhaps the next-best person to talk to about the situation is Bob Smith. Smith first met Bradley as his seventh-grade Sunday school teacher. Shortly thereafter, he and his wife became Bradley's host parents while Bradley was travelling with his AAU team. Smith speaks to Bradley every day, is referred to as his "mentor" and is, in fact, listed as his father in UConn's media guide.
Here's my story on the Bradley-Drummond situation. And here's some of what Smith had to say in a phone conversation earlier this evening:
“To be honest, (at first) I felt uneasy about it,” Smith admitted. “But as Mike got to talking about it, you could tell real quick this is what Mike wanted to do. He wanted to do this. (They) won a national championship last year, and Mike wants to do that again so bad. He has a passion for it at this point.”
“I asked Mike, point-blank. He said, ‘I’m not being pressured, it’s not something I have to do, but it’s something I want to do.’”
Smith said Calhoun called him when the idea was being broached and had a nearly hour-long conversation with him about the situation.
“I felt like I could trust him,” Smith said. “He hasn’t lied to me. Everything he told Mike, he’s done so far. Mike would crawl across glass for that guy. He thinks the world of all the coaches. I hope they understand what they’ve got. They’ve got a guy willing to sacrifice for the team.”
Smith said that, from what he’s been told, this is just a one-year deal, and Bradley will get his scholarship back next year. Of course, even just a year’s out-of-state tuition at UConn runs about $38,000. That’s a lot of money for a kid who grew up in one of the poorest sections of Chattanooga. But it won’t be what Bradley owes.
“It’s not even close to ($38,000),” said Smith, who wouldn’t divulge the exact nature of the loans and/or scholarships Bradley may be receiving. “And even if it was, he’d still want to do it. Is he going to incur some expense? Sure. But it’s not something he can’t handle. Mike understands the numbers. A kid as poor as he was, he understands sacrifice. He has sacrificed all his life, and this time he has sacrificed for a cause he really, really believes in.”
That cause is not only playing for a national championship – a goal greatly increased by Drummond’s presence – but improving as a player. And what better way to improve, Bradley figures, than by going up against a potential NBA lottery pick like Drummond every day in practice.
“I know Mike’s glad to have him on the team,” Smith said. “He may take Mike’s minutes, but it makes the team better. And the guy he’s playing against will make him better. We talk every day, and I ask him: Did you play against Andre today? He says it’s always against him and (Alex) Oriakhi, because you can’t get better without playing against the best.”
"It makes the team better, and the guy he's playing against will make him better. But he still wants minutes. I told him, 'You don't have to be faster than the lion, you just have to be faster than the guy being chased by the lion. He works very hard, but it's up to Mike to get those minutes."
They say there's no cheering on press row, but it'll be tough not to be rooting for Michael Bradley this winter. I'm growing more and more comfortable with this situation by the minute.