Amid some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, the tallest skyscraper in college basketball has fit in quite nicely, thank you.
After several days of hype, BYU's 7-foot-6 center Shawn Bradley finally made his off-Broadway debut Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. And in a place where reviews can make or break a career, Bradley proved his show will be around for a long time.His numbers in BYU's loss to South Carolina Thursday certainly weren't overwhleming - 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots. The most impressive part of his performance was the blocks, six of which came in the second half. He also had a flying slam dunk on a fast break that brought fans out of their seats and was replayed on all the local sports stations.
Bradley has been featured in the four major dailies, the New York Times, the Daily News, the N.Y. Post and Newsday. The News featured him in early December, and the Times did a front-page story Sunday. The other features, complete with pictures and headlines like "Biggest Man on Campus," ran Thursday.
Bradley has impressed just as much off the court. On Wednesday Bradley faced the New York media in a pre-tourney press conference and showed off his sense of humor. After Thursday's game, he patiently waited around to answer several questions after doing his duty in a post-game press conference.
The Post complimented Bradley, calling him "incredibly mature, friendly and polished for a freshman."
Bradley, who is making his second visit to New York (he came last year as a high school senior) is diplomatic in his opinion of the Big Apple.
"It's a nice place to visit . . . it's fun to see one of the major cities in the nation," said the 18-year-old who grew up on a farm in Castle Dale. One thing he has noticed is an awful lot faces staring up at him this week.
"A lot of people in Utah are used to seeing me, but back here people stop and say, `Wow, look at him.' But I get that all the time whereever I am." Of course, he's never had so many people staring at him before.
It's a similar story with his dealings with often-tough New York media. "It's just about the same as other places. There's just a lot more media back here," he said.
Bradley and his teammates would like to leave a good impression with today's Holiday Festival consolation game against Rutgers. But it likely won't be Bradley's last at Madison Square Garden. Even if BYU doesn't make it back, Bradley will certainly be making annual visits to the Garden with some lucky NBA team someday.
As one Garden fan was overheard telling his friend as he watched Bradley, "You can tell he's going to be around for a long time. He's a big-time player."
GAME NOTES: Tonight's game (5 p.m. MST) will be the first-ever meeting between BYU and Rutgers . . . The Cougars haven't had much luck in their five appearances in the Holiday Festival. They've never won it, and their overall record is 3-8 . . . BYU Coach Roger Reid was pleased with the play of point guard Nathan Call, who scored 12 points and had just two turnovers Thursday. "Nathan's just getting into the swing of things. Remember, he didn't play for two years" . . . Six inches of overnight snow hampered the Cougars' sightseeing activities Friday. They spent Friday evening attending a Broadway play . . . Bradley needs just three blocks tonight to break BYU's single-season blocked shot record of 81 set by Greg Kite eight years ago . . . The Cougars begin WAC play Thursday at San Diego State.