Story Poster
Notre Dame Basketball Recruiting

5-star Bradley still on the rise, talks Notre Dame offer, visit plans

August 2, 2020

The Las Vegas stage was set with players who already had committed to college basketball powers in the 2018 AAU Under Armour Association Finals when a funny thing happened: an eighth-grader, playing up on the 16U B.Maze Elite squad, found himself in control of things, game and thus championship on the line, 40 seconds to play.

It was not by accident that Jaden Bradley was in a command role.

“He’s the best eighth-grader I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Raul Placeres, the coach of that B.Maze squad two years ago and now the second-year head coach at NCAA Division III power Maryville College. “His level of maturity, poise, ability to get to the basket, he was just so far ahead of his time even as an eighth-grader.”

Today, Bradley is a consensus five-star point guard in the 2022 signing class. His offer list reads much like a March Madness Sweet 16 bracket, with Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Louisville and North Carolina among the programs extending scholarship promises.

Most recently, Notre Dame, top 10 all-time in NCAA basketball wins, joined Bradley’s offer list. And as the Bradley household has a strict “classroom first, no video games on weekdays” set of rules, Bradley is intrigued by the Fighting Irish program.

“Coach (Mike) Brey, he called me and we were talking for a little bit,” said the nearly 6-foot-3, 185-pound Bradley, a recent Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year recipient who is logging his final prep season at IMG Academy. “He said he was offering me and wanted to stay in touch. I was happy to get the offer and hopefully I can get up there to visit the campus and watch the team play.

“You’ve got to get it done in the classroom to be able to perform on the court. It just doesn’t work without that. My mom (Mialisha) is really big on the academic piece.”

The family took stock of the Notre Dame offer.

“The family reaction, in typical Jaden fashion, he just walks in the house after he was in the garage working out, he said, ‘Dad, Dad. Coach Brey just called me. Yeah, he offered,’” Nathan Bradley Sr., Jaden’s father and a former Rutgers University quarterback, said. “’I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.’

“My wife overheard, she said, ‘Who? What school?’ We were so excited. They said, ‘We want to sit down and talk to you.’ It’s just another blessing, a prestigious school like Notre Dame kind of separates itself.”

The Bradley family traces Jaden’s ability to separate himself all the way back to both that AAU championship two years ago and a family decision to accelerate levels of competition that predates the AAU circuit.

“I think he was 6 or 7 years old,” Nathan Bradley said. “His older brother (Nathan Jr., a recent standout at Faulkner University) played travel basketball and Jaden would sit under the basket. We were short players, playing third and fourth grade basketball and he was a first-grader and never looked back.

“One of the things we tried to do with Jaden is that he always played up, never just played his level. AAU, still today, he really never has played just his age group. When he got to eighth grade, he started playing 16U. Just to kind of learn his IQ and be advanced, because we felt like as you play up, you maybe aren’t as athletic and you learn the mental aspects of the game.”

Added Jaden, “A minute left in the game, I had the ball in my hand trying to make the right reads and decisions. It just shows how much confidence Coach P had in me and my teammates. And it gave me confidence.”

Even in a pandemic, with COVID-19 halting much of the sports world since early March, Bradley finds time to get virtual coaching from Placeres. Their ZOOM sessions lack neither in intensity nor frequency.

“He wants to be great, wants to be the best at his position,” Placeres said. “And he wants to always be better than he was the year before. And I think his parents have done an incredible job of helping him to learn to play the game the right way.

“He wants to learn the nuances and everything about the game, so that’s what we focus on in those Zooms.”

It’s a singular focus for Bradley: constant improvement.

“Just all the little things because at the next level, everybody is good, the best in their state, whatever,” Jaden said. “It’s like being able to hit shots in the corner, catch-and-shoot. Extending your range, pull-ups, finishing through contact. Ball-handling. All things to help me take my game to the next level in these Zooms.

“Me and Coach P will schedule a Zoom call to look over some games from last year, and it’s very helpful, like a film session. So I can see how I can improve on my game, things I can work on. Some defensive things I’ve picked up, not doing unnecessary switches on defense, getting through some stuff and having my head on a swivel so I don’t get back-doored. Some offensive things, sometimes if I’m going full-speed in transition, do things to have more control or different reads to get my pull-up off.”

Not too bad for the kid who just keeps playing up.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.