CHICAGO — North Carolina has won multitudes of new believers of late, but Tony Bradley isn’t one of them. The future Tar Heel center has been a UNC advocate from day one, and he views his future squad as a dynamic heavyweight force.
“They started out preseason No. 1 and lost one of the first few games they played,” Bradley said, “but overall just through the whole season, even now they’re still getting better.
”That’s scary right now, because they still can improve.”
Bradley hasn’t enjoyed an opportunity to luxuriate in the Heels’ success, however. The gifted big man has spent the past several days here competing at McDonald’s All-American events, and he’s doing his best to remain focused despite limited opportunities to score.
His Tuesday morning scoring looked a lot like Monday’s. Bradley performed well defensively and as a rebounder, but his work on offense consisted primarily of screening for guards. For his part, though, it’s the overall McDonald’s package that has taken on the greatest importance.
“Knowing the guards were going to shoot the ball, I knew that coming in,” Bradley said. “I’ve just been enjoying the experience. I’m just honored to be here and when we visited the Ronald McDonald House, I just realized how great I have it.”
He surprised even himself by signing up for Monday’s three-point competition, subsequently outlasting some of the opposition.
“Someone talked me into it,” he said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy,” but I stuck with it. People were wondering what I was doing in there, and I made it to the second round.”
Tuesday’s practices added a new wrinkle. The East coaches ran a scrimmage in which there were no out of bounds or fouls, and the mauling that occurred thereafter wasn’t for the faint of heart.
“Everybody was hacking each other,” Bradley laughed. “Everybody knew there were no fouls, so I started doing it, too.”
The East versus West scrimmage that took place in the afternoon — and was televised by ESPNU — actually did open up a few shot opportunities. Bradley scored on some offensive rebounds and made one very nice turnaround along the baseline. He also ripped down some contested defensive rebounds.
Wednesday night’s game will conclude the event, and after completing the postseason tour Bradley will direct his attention fully to his college career. The wide-shouldered big man mostly does cardio work now, but he intends to start weight training this summer.
”I want to get started on lifting, but I want to be careful not to get too bulky,” he said, noting that he’s likely to gain muscle plentifully.
He did watch the second half of the Notre Dame game on Sunday night, and his observations over the weeks have furthered his familiarity with the current crop of Tar Heels.
“I see some things (in myself) with Isaiah Hicks,” Bradley said. “He comes off the bench and is their spark player, the energy guy.
”They look like they all pass first, the bigs, and they just get a lot of touches. I like that and it’s one reason I signed there. I enjoy watching them play.”
Because the roster for next season remains unknown due to potential NBA decisions this spring, Bradley can’t yet pinpoint a likely role next year. In his mind, however, it’s the approach that ranks as the top priority.
“My goal is to just go in there and help the team out,” he said. “If I start, I start, and if I don’t I’ll be a role player and just work hard.
”I just want to win.”