UConn's Bradley, Drummond linked by sacrifice
Connecticut center Michael Bradley says it was his decision to give up his scholarship so the Huskies could sign prize recruit Andre Drummond, and he doesn't want anyone's pity.
Bradley, a redshirt freshman who grew up in a home for children from troubled families in Tennessee, said he made the offer to coach Jim Calhoun in August shortly after hearing that Drummond was committing to UConn, and knowing the defending national champions had no more scholarships to give.
UConn has only 10 scholarships this season after losing one because of NCAA violations and two more because of a poor academic performance rating.
Drummond decided to enroll just three days before the start of the fall semester, but UConn needed to free up a scholarship to get him. Bradley, who was in a position to qualify for other financial aid, will play this season as a walk-on, and hopes to be back on scholarship next year.
''It was a chance to first, better myself, by going against a more competitive person each day,'' he said Wednesday, the first time he has talked about the decision with the media. ''So that was a great opportunity. And, it was a chance for our team to get better, that was also a great opportunity. So, I felt like sometimes you have to make a sacrifice if you really want to get better.''
Bradley said he is receiving several grants and other financial aid this year, but acknowledges it will be financially challenging for him without the scholarship money.
He grew up in a poor section of Chattanooga and spent most of his childhood living in the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home because of a strained relationship with his mother. He said he hopes to major in economics at UConn, but didn't want to go into details about his financial situation, or his personal life.
''I don't want anybody to pity me,'' he said. ''That is the one thing that I don't want. But, I'll just say I made a lot of sacrifices growing up that were kind of forced on me. It was kind of hard, but it wasn't too bad.''
Bradley and Drummond are both 6-foot-10 and have known each other for several years. Calhoun was recruiting Drummond when he saw Bradley play in the same AAU tournament. He held up Bradley last year as a great story of UConn's commitment to student athletes, pointing out that he scored a 1380 on his college boards and had already earned numerous college credits before enrolling at Connecticut.
He said he takes exception to the characterization that UConn took a scholarship from a kid who grew up in an orphanage, to give it to a basketball phenom who likely will be at UConn for one year.
''No one lost a scholarship,'' he said. ''Michael wasn't the only guy who came to the coaching staff when we were talking about this and said, `Coach, can I help.' Within teams, people make sacrifices...in this case that's what happened.''
Calhoun said the school would explain the situation further in the coming weeks. Connecticut President Susan Herbst, in an interview last month, said she was comfortable with how Calhoun handled everything, and believes nothing was done that would harm Bradley or the school.
''I think Michael is on good footing and is taken care of,'' she said. ''He's a terrific student and I have no question that he will be supported, and it kind of works with the success of the team which is important to him as well. And I have met Andre, and he's a great kid, and it's going to be a great team this year.''
Calhoun described Drummond as a special player, who at 275 pounds runs the floor like a point guard, can post up and shoot from the outside. He was projected by many to be an NBA lottery pick if he had gone directly from prep school to the pros. He said Wednesday that he's just thankful to get the opportunity to play at UConn, a team he has followed since moving to the state in seventh grade.
He said he's also grateful to Bradley.
''I'm thankful for everything he did,'' he said. ''Me and Mike have a great relationship and I've known him since I was a sophomore (in high school), so we've been really cool. So I'm really thankful for what he did for me.''
Their teammates say the entire experience has brought everyone closer together.
''That just shows a lot about Mike Bradley as a person that he was willing to do that to make this team better - adding Andre Drummond,'' said captain Alex Oriakhi. ''You can't really ask a kid to do more than that. That's a kid that works hard every day, and I think he's really going to be solid for us this year.''
Drummond expects more than that.
''I think we have all the pieces to the puzzle,'' he said, ''to make another run at the national championship.''