CHICAGO — Through two days of workouts, Tony Bradley has proved himself worthy of his place on the McDonald’s All-American team.
As a classical big man, the North Carolina signee and blue-chip center likely will play a supporting role this week due to the historical tendency of perimeter players to dominate the scoring.
But while Tony Bradley hasn’t gotten as many touches as he may wish, the Florida native has made the most of his opportunities. He has finished well inside utilizing his high shoulders and long arms to evade shotblockers on a gifted East team frontline.
He also has created his own chances on the offensive glass. The 2015-16 Tar Heels have illustrated how critical those caroms can be, and Bradley should carry forward the lineage of UNC’s present big men into the future.
Meanwhile, he has impressed with his defensive work as well. Bradley has moved his feet laterally far better than he did in the past, including against talented face-up players such as Sacha Killeya-Jones and Edrice Adebayo. Inside, he has blocked shots and altered the attempts of guards attempting to shoot over him.
The highlights above also demonstrate his ability to get a rebound and dribble the ball the other way. It’s unlikely he’ll do much of that in Chapel Hill, but his hand-eye coordination is outstanding.
All of these qualities correlate with Bradley’s continuing improvement over the past 18 months. Even as recently as last April, he would not have been nearly as effective against opponents of this caliber. He has learned to utilize his reach and wide frame to create space, and his skill level — albeit not getting as many chances here thus far — has risen appreciably as well.
It’s very easy to understand why Roy Williams recruited him so heavily, dating back to his junior season, and he should slot very well into the lineup. The question is, how soon?
No one knows yet exactly what the post rotation will look like next season, but certainly as a sophomore Bradley should start, play close to 30 minutes and likely become one of the squad’s key contributors.
NBA personnel on hand have told me they view him as a prospect for that level, too, but not someone they view as a lottery pick or priority in the next couple years due to his relatively average size and athleticism. That could lead to his playing at least two or even three years at UNC, and perhaps during that time he could help engineer a Final Four run of his own.