Like father, like son: Niagara Wheatfield’s Bradberry succeeding at the varsity level

Eighth grader following in his father’s footsteps as a talented basketball player.

David Yarger

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – For many high school athletes, it’s a privilege to play just one or two years as a varsity athlete. Niagara-Wheatfield’s Jalen Bradberry could play up to five years on the varsity team.

As an eighth grader, Bradberry is a starting guard for coach Erik O’Bryan’s Falcons squad. He has garnered a lot of hype not just within the Niagara Frontier League and Western New York, but nationally.

Aside from the double-teams and intense physical defense he faces on a night-to-night basis, Bradberry has drawn the attention of scouts and writers. He is ranked in the top 50 of various player polls for the class of 2020, being as high up as 36.

His father, Carlos Bradberry, says the recognition is great but not everything.

“(Rankings) at the middle school level are great to see, but the goal is to be ranked when you are a sophomore, junior and senior,” he said. “I always tell Jalen, it’s fun to see your name but this is a marathon not a sprint.”

Carlos, like Jalen, played varsity basketball at a young age. He began playing varsity as a freshman at LaSalle High School and in his junior year he was an All-Western New York first team award winner.  He followed that by winning Western New York Player of the Year as a senior.

After high-school, he went to Niagara University for one year, and then transferred to the University of New Hampshire where he finished his career.

As an eighth grader, Jalen faces athletes that are four to five years older than him. The physical demand of facing a defender that much older could seem like a daunting task, but Jalen is up to facing the physicality because he’s seen it before.

Jalen plays year-round in the Amateur Athletic Union, facing athletes in older age divisions.

“It’s helped physically, because the teams I played and the strength at the AAU level is like the same that I’m playing now.” Jalen said.

Carlos said Jalen has handled this situation well.

“I feel he’s handling the situation great, I think his IQ and skill level helps him greatly. He is well ahead of the game mentally.” Carlos said. “I think I was concerned with the physical part of the games where teams are going to try and rattle him and do things to get him off his game, but he has handled that great so far.”

Carlos also said Jalen has played older competition his whole life and it’s helped with his maturity as a basketball player. He said being in those situations have prepared him for the moment, and is a reason why he doesn’t feel any added pressure being an eighth-grade starter.

In the “Battle at the Border” tournament this past weekend, Jalen dropped 38 points against St. Francis Catholic, shattering the tournament scoring record. Of the 38, Jalen nailed 10 three-pointers from well behind the arc.

The only way to get the skills he has, is to work constantly on the court. Carlos said you can’t get Jalen off of it.

“When the season isn’t going on, we are in the gym working on a part of his game at least six out of the seven days,” he said. “During the season, we try to go to stay sharp or work on things he is struggling with.”

Jalen is also a hard worker in the classroom. He offered some advice to someone who is in his shoes, looking to make a name for themselves is.

“Work hard on and off the court and don’t get distracted.”

Carlos said he knows his son will look to pursue an opportunity at Georgetown and he hopes to one day make the NBA. He also offered some advice for Jalen and other young basketball players.

“You only get this journey to do once. You never want to look back with regrets so put your all into it and realize it’s a process. Nothing happens overnight, you must consistently grind and work for your goals. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.”

Jalen’s next game is against Charter School for Applied Tech on Feb. 10.

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