We continue our UK Player previews with some words about the point guard who is “smootha than you.”
I remember the first time I interviewed Ramel Bradley. It was after a game early in the season and I asked him what he thought the future of this team would be. He answered, “thats a silly question. The future is bright my man….I am here.” There was something about that answer that I loved. Whether it was the fact that he could tell me that my question was “silly” and still make me smile (and by the way, it wasnt the only silly question I asked as I learned my way) or the fact that he had such chutzpah that he could exude confidence even though he wasnt even a starter. It was endearing.
And since that time, my affinity for Ramel has only grown. In case you hadn’t heard it before, the team last year had some serious chemistry issues. Most of the season involved pouting, moping and various states of disagreement that made following the team at times depressing. But there was one guy who always seemed to have the respect of virtually all the time……and that was Smooth. Even when he saw his playing time decrease and mumbles of a possible transfer were commonplace, Bradley always cheered his teammates on from the bench. In addition, he was and is the MOST IMPORTANT advocate of Joe Crawford and as Bradley goes, in many ways so does Crawford. Ramel is almost like an agent, pitching Crawford on his own abilities and giving him the encouragement needed to become a star.
This season is huge for Ramel. He seriously considered jumping ship both his Freshman and Sophomore seasons and his decision to come back may be the most important part of success this year for the Cats. Ramel has everything you want from your point guard, an ability to distribute, get to the basket and be a team leader on the floor. But he can also be inconsistent, and overcoming that fault is CRUCIAL to both Ramel and this team’s success. I predict a big year for all of this season’s junior class, but I am most excited about seeing Bradley. He has been waiting for this point to shine and as Ramel goes, so will go the team.
Of course our fine staff has this to say:
Tomlin: “Never a dude like this one. He’s got a plan to stick it to the Man.” The phrase first came to light on a 1972 movie poster in description of Youngblood Priest, the central character of Gordon Parks Jr.’s immortal cult classic Super Fly. But it could be argued the words ring true twenty-four years later for the University of Kentucky’s own Ramel “Smooth” Bradley, whose colorful personality and cool-headed leadership have built the spunky guard a fan base the young Brooklynite could never have fathomed. Okay, so he probably had fathomed it a time or two. Or completely expected it. But that’s precisely why we like him. Often it appears that Bradley is playing two games simultaneously — the game being played in the present and the game being played two minutes from now. And when the game two minutes from now is going to be really exciting, Bradley will go ahead and start pumping everyone up for it by rousing the fans of the game of the present. Employing this special understanding and manipulation of the space-time continuum for far more good than, say, altering the events which will unfold at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, the 6’1″ guard is a smaller player whose well-documented fearlessness defies both 7’1″ centers and goal supports (an effective metaphor of his abilities can be viewed here). But those of us who’ve spent any time in prison know the key to establishing one’s self quickly is to walk into the courtyard on the first day and go absolutely psycho on someone so there leaves no doubt that you’re not to be messed with. And coming coming into Kentucky flanked on all sides by McDonald’s All-Americans, that’s exactly what he did. He went big — and it paid off. Immediately the UK fan base knew that here was a kid who knew what it meant to be a Wildcat. He was quick. He was mouthy. And above all, he was Smooth. As a result, Ramel Bradley has become this team’s Kid Dynamite, a powderkeg ready to blow the lid off the game, a basketball vigilante who comes to his teammates’ aid when conventional avenues falter. Just like a very smooth Batman. And everyone knows you don’t mess with smooth Batman. Because he may be small, but he’s a scientist. And he will figure out a way to bring you down. Just like Ramel Bradley.
Turkey Hunter: Ramel and I have something in common that must be indicative of awesomeness. Whether it is the bourbon chicken served via toothpicks or the slightly off kilter chicks who shop at Hot Topic, we both seem to share an affinity for the Fayette Mall and all the joy it brings. Seriously, a collection of beautiful women and free little cups of cider at William Sonoma? Im feeling ya Ramel. Oh, yes, the basketball thing. Ramel’s good. This season we will all learn together just how good. Last year, he was the Jan Brady to Rondo’s Marsha. Sure, we would all still nail Jan to keep the propsect of a Brady Triple Crown alive, but Jan never garnered the clout of her slighlty more social sister. But folks,we were blind to see that Ramel is no Jan- he is more of a Mrs. Brady- still a looker but with the poise to keep things discreet and a clan of ardent supporters. Sure, the Turkey Hunter has made this same mishap in his personal life. Many nights I’ve felt the need to chase after the hottie only to learn too late her fart locker does not indeed generate vanilla candles rolled in a candy shoppe. Too many times I’ve ignoredthe less flashy but quality cutie with the heart of gold, offering me a blumpkin while baking me cake. No,the Turkey Hunter would not give up the attention she so desperately craved. Always, the same mistake: form over substance. Well no more people!! This is a new year and Im glad we have Ramel running the show. So you can go to hell Laura, uh, I mean Rondo!! Last year, your attitude was so poor Berea named a building after it. But now we have a kid who genuinely wants to be here whose talent is only surpassed by his enthusiasm. Ramel, when he’s on, can distribute the rock in away Suge Knight would envy. He has speed to spare and can get to the hole quicker than Warren Beatty ever could. And most importantly, the team respects him and will follow his lead through the tough stretches that this year, like ALL years, will surely have. If Ramel were any more a gamer, Fred Savage circa 1989 would drag his brother half way across the country to take him on in Double Dragon. The kid can play. He may not have the exact same skill set as Rondo, but he will create more chemistry than my cousins with a case of Sudafed. If he can harness his sometimes suspect decision making, his presence onthis team will be nothing but great. Much like a double date with Hubby, expect big things. Oh, and we can still work it out Laura.
Intern: I see Tubby Smith’s recruitment of Ramel Bradley as a deleted scene from “Blue Chips”:
Tubby Smith was distraught. He’d just made his final in-home visit of the summer; a trip to the living room of Malik Thorogood of East Brooklyn–a do it all combo guard with the range of an M-40 and a 42’’ vertical to boot. However, Tubby and his Powerpoint fell upon deaf ears as Mama Thorogood announced to Tubby that St. John’s would be the winner of the sweepstakes. She asked Tubby for a counter offer: a three bedroom town home on Long Island…miles away from the dregs of malevolence which permeate Brooklyn’s lower east side. She wanted a car. Something fast yet practical. “A Mercedes would do,” she instructed. Tubby was incensed to say the least. “Ma’m, we don’t do it that way at Kentucky. We want boys who want to play for the pride of the great state that is sewn across their breast. I’m sorry…I’m sorry for Malik.” And with that, Tubby was gone.
With a plane still some three hours away from LaGuardia, Tubby wandered along the barren roadways and alley ways, still heartbroken by the news from his visit. “Is this what collegiate athletics has become?” he thought to himself. Dressed in the latest UK Nike warm-up suit, Tubby stumbled across a concrete oasis: a playground…or at least, what was left of it. Graffiti dominated the landscape, and only a jungle gym and an old swing-set frame bore proof that this place was once used for leisure. There was however, a basketball court. Weeds were growing out of the cracks on the tattered asphalt, and the goals were half bent and net-less from years of alley-oops and negligent upkeep. “How can anyone play here?” He asked himself. Try telling that to the six kids running a game of winners-out 21. Tubby watched through the chain-link fence. It was a scene straight from a Spike Lee joint: he saw the smiles on their faces as they feverishly fought for each point. They were playing for the love of the game. Not even realizing it, a smile streamed across Tubby’s face, for he had been reminded of the pureness of the sport he so loved; the same sport which just moments go reared its ugly head.
A bouncing ball at his feet awoke the coach from his daydream.
“A little help homey?” a voice snapped from the court.
“Uh, yeah. Here ya go son.”
“Thanks money.” The voice replied.
“You know, you’ve got a pretty solid game son. I like your defensive intensity and toughness to the basket. What’s your name son?”
“Ramel. Ramel Bradley…but folks around here just call me Smoove.”
“Smooth. I like it. Say, have you ever heard of a playground called Rupp Arena?”
“Rupp Arena?” Nah, is that in Queens?”
“Haha, no. Walk with me son, we’ve got some talking to do.”
And thus, Tubby Smith didn’t come home from NYC empty handed after all.
And so the chronicles of Smoove began. I first fell in love with the kid in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Nothing more than a brash, confident freshman, Smooth not only punked out Andrew Bogut, he also showed fearless play when it was all on the line. Like when he was flattened by a Michigan St. player as if he were going across the middle into Ray Lewis’ territory. His story in Lexington thus far has been one of peaks and valleys: He’s had his mail sent to the Doghouse, got in a fight with a goal support, and committed costly turnovers. But he’s also showed the necessary moxie for a big time college point guard. I’ve always had ample confidence in Smooth, because even though he’s overly aggressive at times, he never stops comin at you. He doesn’t think, he just plays. Now, the reigns are solely in his hands, and I look for him to ride Kentucky to the finish line with furor; the same furor that Tubby saw on that playground in Brooklyn, four summers ago.
Mosley: Ah Ramel, equal parts the most exciting and most frustrating Wildcat. Exciting because he plays withthe energy of an amphetamine-hooked truck driver, and frustrating because of his ability to make decisions that would cause attendees of a Britney Spears parenting class to say, “What a terrible choice.” However, that was the old Ramel. The new, more mature Ramel knows that this is his year–his time to shine. After having played in the freakishly long shadow of Rajon Rondo’s fingers, Ramel knows that he will be looked to as the leader both on and off the court,and, I think, he feels perfectly comfortable with thepressure. Gone are the attempts to prove himself among his #1 ranked recruiting class brethren on the court with ill-timed shots and poor entry passes. This edition of Smooth knows that the opportunity is there for him to prove himself as Rondo’s better by leading his team back into title consideration. In order forUK to be successful with Ramel running the show, several things have to occur: 1. Ramel must learn to play within the system. This doesn’t mean he can’t go to his New York streetballa heritage when necessary,but it does mean he can’t go there every trip down the court. 2. Be this team’s leader. Bobby Perry is easily the most respected guy on the team; senior, good grades, great standing at the University. However, guys on a team, for better or worse, tend to follow the most-liked good player. This guy is Ramel and he must set the tone by deciding to be one of the hardest workers on the team and buy in completely toTubby’s teachings. If he leads, the others will follow. 3. Exhibit traits 1 and 2 without losing his swagger. This is another reason that I love Ramel. No matter what team he’s playing against he honestly feels he’s the best player on the court. It is important for Ramel to retain his confidence(arrogance?) so that when things go awry (as they occasionally do) he can maintain the attitude that his teammates admire and his opponents hate. The quintessential Ramel moment for me was the NCAA tourney game vs. Utah in 2005. It was somewhere in the first half (correct me if I’m wrong, Tom) that Ramel and Andrew Bogut had words and got all up in one another’s bidness (I learned to talk like that on the mean streets of Hyden). The contrast between the two could not have been more striking: The seven-foot, Wooden Award winning, future #1 draft pick Aussie(Please no Croc Hunter jokes, yet; I’m still hurting)staring down with disdain at an upstart, 6 foot, freshman point guard, who was the 9th man off the bench and the least highly regarded in his recruiting class. This image sticks with me as the perfect example of what Ramel can be at his best: Someone fearless who knows what it means to be a Wildcat and just cocky enough to let you know about it. Ramel may very well be replaced with Derrick Jasper midseason if he fails to make the adjustment to floor general, but I have confidence that Ramel can do the job admirably, and you can bet the Cat from the Big Apple certainly does, too.