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February 21, 2009

Star in the Making: Bradley shows off in Big D

Texas basketball signee Avery Bradley showed why there's so much buzz building about him and Texas commit Tristan Thompson played his first game with Findlay (Nev.) Prep on Friday night in the Dallas Basketball Classic at SMU's Moody Coliseum.

Bradley, wearing bandages around his head after suffering a split lip, had a game-high 22 points in 20 minutes and was named the game MVP in Findlay's 74-51 win over God's Academy of Irving. Bradley took an elbow to the face early in the first quarter but came back with lots of gauze, tape and athletic wrap to show off his considerable skills as an off-the-dribble shooter who also remained fearless in driving the basket.

How impressive was the 6-3 Bradley? The evaluation comparisons ranged from former Texas guard T.J. Ford and New Orleans guard Chris Paul.

"Bradley's quick, but he doesn't have quite the jets of T.J.," said Mike Kunstadt of texashoops.com "He's smooth, the way he can score reminds me more of Chris Paul."

Bradley plays a shooting guard for Findlay (29-0) but he's working on his ball-handling and passing skills to swing between point and shooting guard at Texas. Bradley has terrific hops - he tried a follow-dunk off a rebound with five minutes left in the game.

He's working on extending his jump-shooting range. He was 1-of-2 from the three-point line. He showed good shooting form in hitting 5-of-6 free throws. He works well within a system as Findlay is one of the best-passing high school teams around. Findlay often wouldn't have a dribble past mid-court.

Bradley didn't use half-court, isolation sets to get his shots - which was the case for Oak Hill guard Brandon Jennings, who played in a Dallas showdown with Duncanville at Moody Coliseum last year .

Bradley runs the floor well, got his looks in a number of different ways:

- in transition
- quick catch-and-release shots off screens
- creating his own space off 2-man sets.

All this from a guy who headed to Dallas' Medical City Hospital after the game to receive a half-dozen stitches in his lip.

"(The injury) wasn't a big deal, you ignore it and play your game," Bradley said. "I had a lot of family and friends here who had never seen me play, but I would have played the way I did anyway."

Bradley lived in nearby Arlington until the seventh-grade. He would have attended Arlington Lamar had his family not moved to Tacoma, Wash. for the last four years. Bradley had a couple dozen supporters on hand for this game with his mom leading the cheering section in a burnt orange UT sweatshirt.

He transferred to Findlay in August to have a better concentration of basketball and academics in order to to get NCAA-ready for Texas. Bradley said he plans to spend most of this summer in Austin.

Findlay is a third-year, independent private school hybrid with a heavy emphasis on hoops. It's financially supported by former UNLV basketball player Cliff Findlay, a longtime auto dealer in Las Vegas. There's no Findlay campus. The players attend classes at another Las Vegas private school and all but one player lives in a five-bedroom house with an assistant coach.

Findlay is aptly named as the Pilots because they spend most of their time on the road. Of their 29 games, 21 have been out of state. In its third year, Findlay has quickly established itself as a national basketball power. The first two years had a roster full of fifth-year players to make Findlay a prep school under national guidelines but now it is eligible for national rankings and sponsorship from NIKE because it only has 4-year high school players. Bradley is the leading scorer, averaging just under 20 points per game.

The Pilots were joined by Thompson earlier this week. The 6-9 power forward transferred from St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.). He played four second-half minutes on Friday. Originally from Toronto, he scored on a free throw, had a rebound and one blocked shot in his short stint.

Thompson, a February commit to Texas, left St. Benedict's after a public argument with Benedict coach Dan Hurley, who removed Thompson from the roster of nationally ranked Benedict.

Thompson said he was drawn to Texas because of the long-standing tradition of Longhorns coach Rick Barnes in developing power forwards.

"I watch as many Texas games as I can, I like to watch (Longhorn) Gary Johnson and the way he plays," Thompson said. "I'm working on every aspect of my game. Shooting, ball-handling, defense, rebounding to become the best player I can be and then I'll send what my role needs to be when I get to Texas."


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