From the moment Crystal Bradford stepped on the court, she has been called the best player on the court. For those who doubt that fact, all you have to do is look at her trophy case which includes various awards and accolades from middle school, AAU, high school and even a gold medal from her time with USA Basketball at the 2013 World University Games.
However, it seems now that Bradford will be adding a new trophies to her case, because she has been named 2013-14 Mid-American Conference women’s basketball Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Due to this great accomplishment, she has become the first Central Michigan player to ever win either the Player of the Year or the Defensive Player of the Year awards and only the third player in MAC history to win both in the same season.
Now if you watch women’s MAC basketball at all this season, you already know that Bradford has been considered the best player in the MAC conference all season, but now she has the official hardware to make it official along with the honor of being named first team All-MAC for the second consecutive season.
For those who haven’t seen Bradford, let me hit with you some knowledge. Bradford isn’t someone who just stepped on the scene and had a great season all of sudden. Since high school, the former Inkster Viking has been a force on the court. As a junior she was named Class A all-state special mention by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and second team all-state by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Due to her great play as a junior and her even better play as a senior, Bradford would later be rated as the No. 37 prospect in the nation by ESPN and the ninth-best guard.
While many people suspected that she would leave the state of Michigan and go to a big time school, she decided that she wanted to stay home and make a name for herself at Central Michigan while continuing to play with her fellow Inkster teammate Jas’Mine Bracey. Now of course this move was met with some skepticism but shame on those who doubted her because Bradford has proved every doubter wrong since the moment she stepped on the Chippewa court as a freshman.
As a freshman, she made an early impact, starting 19 games of the team’s 32 game and it was during that time that she led the team in scoring by averaging 14 point and eight rebounds per game. While she did have to share her time in out of the starting line-up, she finished the season with 11 double-doubles, earning her the opportunity to be named to the MAC All-Freshmen Team. In her sophomore year, she was even better, as she led the Chippewas in scoring while averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per game. By the end of her sophomore season, she had 15 double-doubles. Her success in her sophomore season wouldn’t stop with the regular season, in the NCAA Tournament, she scored a CMU NCAA Tournament record with 36 points and added 14 rebounds and seven assists in first round of NCAA Tournament versus Oklahoma. She would later be named MAC Tournament MVP and All-MAC First-Team selection.
Just when some skeptics thought she couldn’t get any better, she came back this season as junior averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and nearly five assists per game, while leading the conference in rebounds and steals. It’s because of her great play along with the great play of her teammates that the Chippewas have a 16-2 conference record and undefeated home record.
Keep in mind that Bradford isn’t just having one of her best seasons in her career, she is having one of the finest seasons in MAC conference history.
[Bradford] She became the first player in MAC history to record two triple-doubles in a career, and she did it in the same season. She finished third in scoring with 20.3 points per game, first in rebounds (12.2/game), and fourth in assists (4.6/game). To earn defensive honors, Bradford ranked second and fourth respectively among all MAC players in steals (2.7/game) and blocks (1.3/game). If that’s not enough, she also ranked 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in offensive rebounds and first in defensive rebounds.
Bradford’s play as a junior is so incredible that she is one of only two Division I women’s basketball players to lead her team in five statistical categories. Due to her great work ethic and consistent production, she has plenty of new hardware to put in her trophy case and if you can believe this, she may not be done yet.
According to cm-life.com, back in February, Bradford was named to the Dawn Staley Award Watch List, a designation handed down to the Top 16 players in the country. Then you add that with the fact that the Chippewas begin their quest to repeat as MAC Tournament Champions this Friday in the MAC tournament and it’s safe to say that Bradford could be very well on her way to adding some more hardware to her trophy case very soon.
Last but not least, you must remember that Bradford is only a junior, so as along as she stays healthy in her senior year and continues with her consistent production, there is no reason to think Bradford won’t win more hardware for herself and her teammates before her college career comes to an end. This Detroit, Mich. native, may not get the national recognition that she deserves, but it’s time the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan to give her more recognition for her accomplishments.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit