SALT LAKE CITY — A rush of excitement was on display as Tony Bradley embraced his North Carolina teammate Shea Rush after winning the 2017 National Championship in front of 76,168 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
A year and some change has passed since that celebratory moment happened in his life on April 3, 2017, but the soon-to-be 21-year-old, whose birthday is Jan. 8, continues to hold his head high despite splitting time with the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake City Stars of the G League this season.
“I love the game, and I think I can be a better player if I just keep working, and that’s what keeps me up is the love of the game,” Bradley told the Deseret News.
Less than 24 hours after posting eight points and nine boards in the Stars’ victory on Friday night, during his seventh G League assignment, the 6-foot-11, 248-pound big man made his first appearance of the season in Utah’s 129-97 victory against the New York Knicks.
He was unexpectedly recalled back to the team ahead of Saturday’s matchup versus New York at Vivint Arena. Bradley logged 8:36 in the fourth quarter, ending with three rebounds, one foul and a turnover on 0-for-3 shooting.
Still, he’s staying positive as he’s trying to stretch his game, especially when he’s in G League games alongside Willie Reed of the Stars, sometimes shifting to the forward spot. In 15 G League games, Bradley is averaging 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 57.4 percent shooting.
“It’s good. Just playing with the Stars, I’m getting good reps, working on things and developing as a shooter,” Bradley said. “I can shoot 3s and stuff.”
Stars coach Martin Schiller is in constant communication with Jazz coach Quin Snyder about his role, and they look to keep his minutes around 28 per night.
Jazz two-way player Naz Mitrou-Long has been around Bradley since the franchise acquired him via trade during the 2017 NBA Draft, and he has also noticed an improvement in his overall development.
“He’s really keeping balls active for us, being aggressive on the offensive glass. His hands are great,” Mitrou-Long said. If you look throughout the course of the season, a lot of my assists and a lot of Isaiah (Cousins) assists go to Tony and he’s catching the ball.2 comments on this story
“Last year, I think he was a little pressed to score, because he felt like that’s what they wanted out of him, but if you look at Jazz basketball that’s what they want is just playing the right way, and I think he’s doing that,” he continued.
Utah is certainly invested in Bradley, as the franchise has already exercised its third-year team option for the 2019-20 season in October, but he still has work to do to earn minutes. With Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Ekpe Udoh garnering minutes, Bradley sees the bigger picture — even if he has to take an alternative route.
“I just want to keep improving, and that’s the main goal,” Bradley said.