The race for Tasha Bradley is on.
Since the sixth grade, Bradley has been playing basketball for herself, because she likes the game and thinks she's pretty good at it. But now, the junior at Muir High School is playing for a new admirer: the college recruiter.
Actually, Bradley is playing for a lot of college recruiters. She has been contacted by most of the major universities, some of which have written her since the ninth grade. Although she's just a junior, now is the time Bradley must show she's college material.
This is the first season that Bradley, a 6-3 center, has had to display her numerous talents. In her first two seasons at Muir in Pasadena she played in the shadow of the Jordan sisters, Pauline and Geannine.
The twins were All-Americans and handled most of the chores for Coach Archie Newton's Mustangs. Bradley started at one of the forward spots but didn't share the limelight.
With the graduation of the twins (they are at Nevada-Las Vegas), it was Bradley's turn to take over the team.
"Tasha's come a long way and I'm proud of her," said Pauline Jordan, who was in town recently because of her mother's illness. "She was overshadowed here the last two years. But I remember telling her in practice that she's the same height as me, to block me out, out-rebound me, because next year she was going to do it on her own."
Good teachers, the Jordan sisters. They helped make Tasha one of the best basketball players around. Bradley blends all the fine basketball traits: She's an outstanding scorer, averaging 27 points a game for a 13-7 team; she's strong and agile around the boards, as her average of 19 rebounds a game proves, and she can dribble, play defense, hit the jumper or nail the easy layup.
But people have wondered about Bradley's ability to take over the leadership role that the Jordans had filled.
How does Bradley think she has adjusted?
"I haven't reached my goal yet, as far as being team leader," Bradley said. "But I think I'm doing OK, especially as far as running practice goes.
"I feel kind of lonely without the twins. I was dependent on them. But I also feel I didn't get enough publicity when they were here, so now it's my turn to show everyone I was just as good as them."
Showing everyone includes those college recruiters who keep calling. Bradley has heard from UNLV, USC, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Colorado State, Arizona, Oregon State, Long Beach State and UCLA, to name a few.
But she says it's too early to make a decision.
"In the ninth grade, I wanted to go to USC and be like Cheryl Miller," Bradley said, referring to the ex-Trojan All-American. "Now I'm in the 11th grade, and I don't know what I want to do. I guess I should wait to hear from everyone before I make a decision."
Bradley was born in Pasadena but spent most of her youth in Texas. She began playing basketball in the sixth grade, moved back to Pasadena in the eighth grade (attending Wilson Junior High), and, when she entered Muir, was persuaded by the Jordan twins to go out for the team.
Now she's one of the most sought-after players in the country. She's the No. 1 junior on the recruiting list at Nevada-Las Vegas.
"She's just a super player," said Rick Glenn, recruiting coordinator at UNLV. "And because of the twins, we have a pretty good shot at getting Tasha. Anytime you have teammates that go to a college, you build an affiliation, and that should get us a visit. When and if we do sign her, that becomes the nice part."
"Tasha's got great quickness," said USC Coach Linda Sharp. "She runs extremely well and she's extremely competitive. I saw her as a sophomore and was very impressed. She's definitely very high on our recruiting list."
If some of her high school games are indicative, Bradley will have little problem adjusting to the higher pressure of college basketball. She's produced some big games this season, scoring 35 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in a 61-59 overtime loss to rival Pasadena, and coming up with a 39-point, 24-rebound performance against Santa Barbara.
"I play better under pressure because when I play someone as good or better than me, it's a chance to show that I can do a little more," Bradley said. "I've always wanted to be like Cheryl Miller. I saw what she could do and I've always felt that I could do the same if I worked hard enough. She's a great person. She once told me that if I stay in school, work hard and continue with my basketball, I'll have no problem going to any college I want."
Bradley has done most of Muir's work herself--"We don't have the scoring help around her we'd like," Newton said--but that hasn't bothered her. The Jordans told her it would be that way, and they prepared her to handle it.
"If she could hold up now by herself, that'll just help her in college," Pauline said. "She's No. 1, but the team respects her because she doesn't go around saying that. Colleges aren't recruiting just for what you do on the court. The school she goes to will have to care about her as an individual, too."
Bradley still has some work to do. She is, after all, 16 years old. While listed as 6-3, she looks closer to 6-1. She has an outstanding outside game, but she might have to develop it further. There aren't many 6-1 girls playing forward or center in the college ranks.
"Tasha might have to move to a guard position," Glenn said. "But the fact that she played with the twins allowed her to become a good outside shooter."
"Her development has been outstanding," Newton said. "She took charge in her first game, and she's been our leader since. Someday she's going to be a star."