Kevin Bradshaw doesn’t wear the look of frustration. In fact, the senior guard who will likely break all of U.S. International’s scoring records by the end of the season is showing no emotion on the court.
But how much longer this 24-year-old can wear his docile game face is becoming a topic of discussion in light of the chaos that has surrounded him thus far in the Gulls’ season. During USIU’s 92-71 loss to Fairleigh Dickinson at Golden Hall Monday, Bradshaw didn’t show signs of cracking but his game continued to suffer.
Bradshaw, who was second in the nation in scoring with a 31.3 average last year as a junior transfer, came in averaging 32.4 and scored a game-high 35 points against the Knights. But he struggled in the first half, making just two of 12 shots, which included a blown layup and a shot that was blocked.
By the time Bradshaw could get back on track, scoring 23 in the second half, the Gulls were left in the cooked. They were down 50-32 at halftime, and after a 16-0 run by Fairleigh Dickinson (4-2) midway through the second half, the Gulls trailed by 28.
The 21-point blowout in front of 172 fans dropped USIU to 1-7 and 0-3 at home. USIU still had three starters in the game when Bradshaw bombed a three-point shot at the buzzer to prevent this from being its worst defeat of the season. But with Bradshaw futilely carrying the load by himself, the Gulls had their lowest scoring night of the season.
“I’m frustrated at times,” Bradshaw said quietly. “But I’ve got to stick with the team. We’re still young. Right now we don’t have the shooters. And we have to get some guys to step forward.”
And step forward in a hurry. Bradshaw, who was featured in the Dec. 3 issue of Sports Illustrated because of his prolific scoring, is forcing many shots and watching his shooting percentage go in the dumper. In Saturday’s 114-104 loss to Division II Chico State, the 6-foot-6 guard suffered through another dismal first half, making just five of 15 shots from the field.
He bounced back to score 40 points. But his shooting percentage going into Monday’s game was a sub-par .429. And it will get worse after an 11-for-29 (38%) performance from the field against the Knights. Bradshaw, however, is not ready to concede that he’s feeling too much pressure.
“The only pressure I put on myself now is to get the ‘W,’ ” he said. “I know I’m taking shots with two and three guys on me. But I’m not a gunner. I drive into the hole and want to dish off, but the guys aren’t ready for the pass.”
Bradshaw was the only Gulls player to finish in double figures scoring. Isaac Brown, Steve Whitehead and Mitch Brown each finished with eight. Senior Mike Sterner, a 6-11 center, contributed just two points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. There is a growing feeling that Bradshaw is out there doing it alone. USIU Coach Gary Zarecky doesn’t deny it.
“He’s got to do it all,” Zarecky said. “He plays his heart out. And each time he takes the court he is the target of the opposing team. They say, ‘Forget the rest of the players. Let’s go after Bradshaw.’ He still manages.”
Add to that the fact that NBA scouts are turning out to watch Bradshaw in every city. Former San Diego State Coach Smokey Gaines, who charts players for the Denver Nuggets, was court-side to observe Bradshaw Monday.
“He realizes people are watching him,” Zarecky said. “He knows he has to have perfect court behavior. He’s spirited, but he’s not getting any help.”
USIU cut Fairleigh Dickinson’s lead to 58-50 at 12:11 of the second half before the Knights scored 16 unanswered points and blew the game open. The Gulls shot a dismal 34% from the floor, 27% in the first half. The Knights, who shot 65% for the game, were led by center Desi Wilson, who had 27 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.