PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — When North Carolina signees Tony Bradley and Brandon Robinson competed against each other at this past weekend’s Wally Keller Classic, the event organizers were ready.
Not only did the two receive tremendous fanfare as future Tar Heels, the presence of their future coach, Roy Williams, also drew heavy attention from the event directors and created a very pro-UNC atmosphere in South Florida.
Bradley’s 27-point, 11-rebound effort lifted Bartow (Fla.) High past Robinson’s Douglasville (Ga.) Douglas County squad, yet Robinson managed to score 18 of his 22 points in the second half to keep his team within contact.
From a Tar Heel perspective, it’s the individual performances and their connection to UNC that made the experience meaningful. Given that they faced each other on the Nike circuit last spring and summer, the two players — and their respective high school coaches — know each other’s games well.
Bradley, a McDonald’s All-American, continues to impress all observers.
“Both of our teams played in South Carolina last year, so we got to see Tony then,” said Douglas County coach Hollis Bethea. “We went on an unofficial visit to North Carolina for the Duke game, and Tony was there for his official visit.
”He’s a great player, really skilled and very solid in the post. He has a nice 15-foot jump shot and has been well coached. Carolina just has a great incoming class overall.”
“He’s a great player, a great big man and I’m excited to get to play together next year,” Robinson said of Bradley. “We are both really excited for the future.”
Bradley’s senior season has been exceptional, and he projects to make an impact early in Chapel Hill. He must get stronger and continue to refine his skills, and he and his coach understand that better than anyone.
”I’m pretty happy with my improvement, but there are still a few things I have to work on,” Bradley said. “In (Saturday’s) game, there were a few times I could have dunked the ball. Most of the time, I just don’t think about it. At the next level I will have to do that, because other bigs will block my shot.”
His coach at Bartow, Terrence McGriff, concurs.
”Defensively, Tony has come a long way,” McGriff said. “He’s still progressing offensively with being more assertive at the rim, so exploding and dunking instead of laying it up. Forget that. Send a message. He sometimes allows people to block his shots, but he’s a really terrific player. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
As for Robinson, his offensive prowess and new role his senior year have drawn plaudits as well.
“Brandon has really progressed with his understanding of the game,” Bethea said. “The difference between this year and last year is that last year he had a few more scorers around him, more guards, so he’s had to take on more of that responsibility.
”He has always had good character, but now he has become more of a leader because we have some young guys.”
”I saw him in the summer and he’s a smart player,” McGriff added. “He’s very cerebral, makes the right play and is unselfish.”
Everyone knows that Robinson must add weight to his gangly frame, but his skill level — which includes a deft jump shot to 22 feet — will help him as he acclimates physically to college.
”Playing against all this national competition has helped me a lot getting ready for the next level,” Robinson said, “especially playing against teams that have more bigs. I have to learn when to pull up, when to go to the basket and just how to play the game more efficiently.”
Robinson and Bradley will combine with explosive combo guard Seventh Woods as members of next season’s freshman class, and the UNC coaching staff continues to pursue center Udoka Azubuike and guard Rawle Alkins while also keeping its eyes open for other potential senior recruits this spring.