For a kid who just turned 17 on Tuesday, Shawn Bradley of Emery County High has had a lot of weight already tossed on his shoulders.
He has won numerous state and regional basketball awards, with the nation now turning its attention to him as a drawing card for prep tournaments and all-star invitationals. He's been featured during halftime of a nationally broadcasted college game, with Al McGuire labeling him as a certain NBA all-star and Dick Vitale dropping Bradley's name from time to time as well. He's already being hounded for post-game autographs and makeshift photo sessions with statewide admirers. And as one of the biggest recruiting catches in the country with his senior season still to come, Bradley has had his name mentioned nearly as prominently and frequently as the some of the head-coach candidates with the recent vacancies at the University of Utah and BYU.In addition to the burdens of those "honors" - as well as being a 7-foot-4 prep standout - you can add that of being named as the 1989 recipient of the Deseret News' Mr. Basketball award. Bradley averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds and 8.5 blocks per game during the regular season, finishing the 2A title contest with 37 points, 13 rebounds and numerous blocked shots.
He becomes the third such honoree, with Timpview's Matt Bowman claiming the 1988 award and Ben Lomond's Kurt Miller receiving the 1987 inaugural trophy. Miller currently plays at the University of New Mexico, while Bowman competes for Utah Valley Community College.
Bradley is just a part of the too-tall Emery County team, with the Spartans having finished their season in undefeated fashion by winning the 2A state championship in an overtime thriller against Richfield. And while the 7-4 junior easily cuts the most towering figure, the rest of the other high-rise Spartan players measure 6-7, 6-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 - not bad for a school with an enrollment of less than 550 students.
But it's Bradley who is the center of attention - the drawing card who is putting Castle Dale on the national map as well as the focus of all sorts of revamped schemes from opposing teams. "Basically, we really did see everything," said Emery County Coach Todd Jeffs. "That's a compliment to him for teams to completely redo their offenses or defenses against Shawn just for them to have a chance to win."
More of a defensive talent last year, Bradley has improved his vertical jump to 24 inches - add another half-foot when he's given a step - and has turned into an offensive threat as well this season. His personal scoring average is good for a third of Emery's 76-point team-scoring average and having a 60- to 70-percent involvement in the Spartan offense.
"But there's a lot more to basketball than throwing the ball in and letting a guy shoot it," said Jeffs. "If he wanted to be a non-team player and take a shot everytime he touched the ball, he could easily have his share of 50-point games and easily average 35 points."
You'd think that Jeffs and his teammates have become accustomed to seeing Bradley's on-court accomplishments. "But in games and every day in practice, you see something and you wonder when it's going to end. He turns up with something like that."
That "something like that" includes as many as five blocked shots in a single sequence or - this is Jeff's favorite - the move Bradley showed in a game when, playing the low post on the baseline, he spun and jumped for a reverse dunk - on the opposite side of the rim. "You expect that of the 6-7 leapers in the NBA, but to see a 7-4 kid who is 16 years old do it, that's specatular in itself."
But before this mentioning of Bradley and the NBA in the same breath gets out of hand, please remember Bradley still has a college career still ahead, with his list of possibilities sounding more like the NCAA Tournament field with BYU and Utah tossed in. For the record, the forerunners include - listed alphabetically so that no one reads more into the sequence than is intended - Arizona, Brigham Young, Duke, Iowa, North Carolina, Syracuse, UCLA, UNLV, Utah and Villanova.
And even before college comes one more year of high school competition and all sorts of attention and acknowledgements. "Hey, he's only 17 years old," says Jeffs. "He needs to have all the fun he can."