U.S. International basketball player Kevin Bradshaw is the nation’s leading scorer, and his stock as an NBA prospect is rising. These days he has plenty of cause to celebrate.
But as the war broke out in Iraq last week, Bradshaw’s mood was one of gloom. He spent Thursday visiting his closest friends, his former Navy shipmates. Friday, he watched them board the submarine tender McKee and depart San Diego for the Persian Gulf.
Bradshaw served three years aboard the McKee before leaving the service in 1989. Then he enrolled at USIU to resume a college basketball career that has become illustrious despite some dark circumstances. He plays for a university steeped in financial trouble and for a team that is 1-18. He leads the NCAA with a 35.2 scoring average, but he has been criticized for taking too many shots. Through it all, his Navy buddies have been his stabilizing force.
“It was pretty hard for me, watching them go,” Bradshaw said. “They’re good people. They’ve always been there for me. They told me never to quit. Very seldom did they talk about the fact that they were leaving for a few months. Thursday they were telling me everything’s OK, and they’ll see me when they get back.”
Bradshaw worked in the engine room of the McKee, primarily a fuel and supply vessel for submarines. Bradshaw said the ship and its more than 1,000 crewmen will have other “unspecified” duties related to the war.
“It’s pretty hard to have them as friends and to know what’s going on and what they’re going against,” Bradshaw said. “People are going to be killed. I’m not for war. I don’t want to see anybody killed. But it really upsets me when I see these (anti-war) protesters. What good is it doing? I would rather see them support these people who might die for this country.”
Depleting numbers: The departure of Bradshaw’s shipmates means that USIU’s basketball team will lose part of its regular following at home games. The Gulls are averaging just 271 fans at Golden Hall. That isn’t much more than San Diego State’s women’s team, which averages 232 at Peterson Gym. In fact, the Aztecs have the better single-game turnout between the two this season, with 471 taking in SDSU’s 87-80 victory Jan. 12 over Utah. The Gulls have drawn no more than 385, who saw a 92-72 loss Dec. 10 to Fairleigh Dickinson.
Three’s a crowd?: The attendance drought is widespread. Last week at the San Diego Sports Arena, which seats 13,741, SDSU’s men’s basketball team drew 2,871 and 3,118 during its two Western Athletic Conference upsets of New Mexico and Texas El Paso. Both, however, were above the Aztecs’ 1990-91 home attendance average of 2,246.
Patriotic victories: Some time after the United Nations gave Saddam Hussein a deadline to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait and before the outbreak of war last week, SDSU men’s basketball Coach Jim Brandenburg ordered 12 cloth patches of the American flag. The Aztecs came out with the patches sewn on their jerseys for Thursday’s game against New Mexico, a 52-51 victory.
Brandenburg said he initially wasn’t sure if SDSU would play its scheduled games against the Lobos and UTEP two days later, but if so, the flags would serve as a token of concern.
“The intent was to give proper attention and homage to those taking the responsibility for all of our freedoms,” Brandenburg said. “Our players have some serious concern with what’s going on there.”
Brandenburg said several of his players have friends or acquaintances in the military. While the Aztecs made a patriotic statement, they improved to 8-8, 3-3 in the WAC winning both games at the Sports Arena.
“This is a very patriotic town,” assistant coach Greg Graham said. “I’m sure there was some added inspiration for our players and fans.”
Stat hawk: Rarely does Christian Heritage sports information consultant Nick Pellegrino come away from a Hawks basketball game without a bushel full of numbers and revelations, occasionally significant but often trivial. Pellegrino seems to file more career and season highs and lows than the IRS files audits.
During the Hawks’ 67-46 loss Saturday to The Master’s College, Pellegrino discovered six all-time single-game lows were established: the fewest points and the worst start (a 14-0 deficit) by the Hawks; the fewest field goals (17) by Christian Heritage and the fewest combined field-goal attempts (101); the 13 points scored by The Master’s Stuart Epperson was the lowest game high; the 12 points scored by Vernaldo Butler was the lowest team high for the Hawks.
Pellegrino’s trivial pursuit goes deeper.
He pointed out that former Hawk Brad Soucie, who scored 49 points against Biola last season, could have single-handedly beaten his old mates Saturday. The Mustangs snapped an eight-game losing streak that dates to a 104-100 victory against Christian Heritage in December 1987. That game also produced the first fight in Hawk basketball history.
Keeping track of all these trifles is “easier than people think,” said Pellegrino, who not only keeps the stats and game notes but also runs the shot clock and serves as public address announcer for home games.