Brotherhood brings a new coach to Southern


Samantha Zoltanski/The Chart

New men’s basketball assistant coach, Nick Bradford directs players during a scrimmage drill at practice the week before their first game.

At a young age, a member of a close family in Fayetteville, Ark., knew basketball was his calling. He has been on a lifelong journey ever since. It is a journey that has gone through places such as the storied basketball program at KU, through the ABA basketball league that used to be home to the 76ers and Spurs and through foreign countries such as Iceland and France.

Nick Bradford grew up in a family that loved sports. He started playing basketball in the first grade and it didn’t take him long to realize the game would be his life calling.

“One of my brothers played football and had a scholarship and my other brother had a basketball scholarship, so I thought it was my duty to relieve my parents as a youngster,” said Bradford. “Around seventh grade I realized it was probably going to be something I would do.”

Playing his high school ball at Fayetteville High, Bradford began to make a name for himself. He was named the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year and a fourth-team Parade All-American in 1996 and was recruited by numerous schools including basketball powerhouses such as the Kansas Jayhawks, Missouri Tigers and Connecticut Huskies. Bradford felt as if Kansas was his best option and decided to become a Jayhawk.

“Kansas is one of the top two or three basketball programs in the country and it was kind of far enough away from home where I could establish my own thing and at the same time close enough for my family and friends to watch me play,” said Bradford. “And obviously the great tradition and coaching staff and I thought we had the chance to win a National Championship.”

Bradford had a solid four year at Kansas under coaching legend Roy Williams who has 700 wins in his 25- year career. The team amassed a record of 116-26 during Bradford’s time at the university, including a 34-2 mark his freshman season.

While at KU, Bradford also roomed with and played alongside now, NBA star Paul Pierce.

“He was my roommate my freshman year and I played two years with him … I felt like going against the best player in the country every day made me better and made me a better defensive player,” said Bradford. “He taught me a lot about work ethic and the will to win.”

When his senior year rolled around, Bradford was named one of the Jayhawk’s team captains. He was also a recipient of the Phog Allen award, given to the team’s most valuable player.

Bradford said, “For me personally, it was a bigger honor after the season when my teammates voted me as the most valuable player… I wasn’t the most talented; obviously, I had a lot of guys who went to the NBA on that team.”

After graduating from KU, Bradford began a playing career in the ABA (American Basketball Association) for the Kansas City Knights. He won a championship with the Knights under Kevin Pritchard, who is now the general manager for the Indiana Pacers. He only stayed in the ABA for two years before moving on to play internationally.

His first stop in international basketball was in Iceland for The Keflavik Express in the Iceland Premier League. He played there for two years before moving on to different countries including Romania and France; the latter he regarded as the most “Americanized” version of basketball in Europe.

After his overseas career, Bradford decided to try his hand at coaching.

“My brother passed away when I was in high school and he was my coach at the time, and I just kind of wanted to keep his memory,” Bradford said.

Along with wanting to carry on in his brother’s footsteps, Bradford had always been told by his former coaches that he could be a great coach one day. He was used as the player to show incoming players around during his time on campus at KU and Williams had told him that he thought he could make a good coach. What more inspiration would an individual need?

Bradford began coaching while playing overseas, coming home over the summers to coach AAU ball in Kansas City. He coached several well-known players who are currently in the college ranks, including Michael Dixon (Memphis), Travis Releford (Kansas) and Trevor Releford (Alabama).

His first college coaching job was at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan. He coached several players who went on to play at four-year schools. Over the summer, Bradford was hired at Missouri Southern to coach the post players.

Bradford had been friends with Southern assistant basketball Coach Jeff Boschee ever since they played together at Kansas.

“Jeff and I kept in touch and when this opportunity came I thought it was a pretty good opportunity to work and play with an old friend,” he said.