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Tony Bradley

January 22, 2016
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Bartow’s Tony Bradley stayed at Home to get National Attention

Chris Davis played two seasons of basketball at Kathleen High School before transferring to Oak Hill Academy in Wilson, Va., for his senior season. He signed with Auburn.

Tracy McGrady played three seasons at Auburndale before tranferring to Mount Zion in Durham, N.C. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors out of high school.

Amare Stoudemire played a half season of junior varsity basketball at Lake Wales before becoming ineligible. He transferred to Mount Zion for his sophomore year, where he played sparingly, did not play his junior year at West Orange in Winter Garden because he was ineligible, then played his senior year at Cypress Creek in Orlando. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns out of high school.

Dwayne Bacon played his sophomore year at McKeel, played at IMG Academy in Bradenton his junior year and played at Oak Hill as a senior. He signed with Florida State.

What do they have in common?

All four players are from Polk County and all were selected for the McDonald’s All-American game, one of the most prestigious events in the country for high school seniors. Only 24 players are selected. None of the four local players, however, was selected while playing for a Polk County high school. Did they need to leave?

Well, take a look at Tony Bradley. The 6-foot, 11-inch senior for Bartow has been racking up accolades with the best of them, being selected for two prestigious games and signing with North Carolina, all while playing high school basketball for his local high school with his friends in the town where he grew up. Bartow coach Terrence McGriff is rightfully proud.

High school basketball players of Bradley’s ability are often told they should go to a prep school that plays a national schedule so they can get noticed, and it will be the best way to further their basketball careers. From a basketball standpoint, it’s a myth.

High school athletes today get noticed by college and pro scouts by what they do in camps and on AAU teams. If players can play, they’ll be found no matter where they play high school ball. McGrady burst on the national scene at the Nike ABCD in 1996. By the time he got to Mount Zion, he was already on the national radar. Scouts would have found him at Auburndale just as easily as at Mount Zion.

Stoudemire played little at Mount Zion, and by the time he got extended playing time in high school his senior year, he was already a top prospect because of his play in AAU.

Bradley worked his way up national rankings and garnered top college offers because he played on top AAU teams at major tournaments in the summer. And during the high school season, he still played against top competition because he plays for a smart coach who put his team in top events. These events weren’t so Bradley could get noticed, because by the beginning of his junior year Bradley was already on the national scene. They were played so Bradley could be challenged during the high school season.

One of the major reasons players go to prep schools is because of easier academic standards. Stoudemire struggled academically at Lake Wales. Bradley excels in school, so that was never an issue.

It’s hard to judge when players leave their hometown high school for one of these prep schools that exist mainly for athletic purposes. If a player can’t hack it academically, well, it does give him a chance to play.

In the end, Bradley has enjoyed the best of both worlds. During the summer, he has played with and against some of the top players in the country, yet he still got to enjoy the high school experience playing against top competition in front of family and friends.

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