‘Consistent’ was the word head coach Derrin Hansen said when asked to pick one to describe sophomore guard and former in-state record breaker Jalen Bradley. ‘Swish’ might be another good one- anything to describe the impeccable outside shooting that Bradley has developed to define his basketball career.
The 6’0” 180 lbs shooter has gone from being one of the highest profile players in Nebraska high school basketball, becoming the fifth leading scorer in Class A history and all-time leading scorer at Norfolk, to learning and developing for the University of Nebraska at Omaha in preparation for a career here with years to play on the horizon.
Bradley originally hails from a town called Tilden, Neb., with a population of 1,078 but later moved to Norfolk.
“I went to Norfolk for a higher level of basketball opportunity,” Bradley said. “As a freshman, I didn’t play much. As a sophomore, I was starting.”
Bradley may have found his niche when he became a Panther at Norfolk high school, but his basketball forte was crafted after a visit from Midwest cherished NBA sharp shooter Kyle Korver.
“Coach brought him in for a junior panther camp as a special guest on the last day in one of the summer camps,” Bradley said. “It was awesome.”
It was then that Bradley modeled his practice routine from Korver. A routine that involved a minimum of two hours of straight shooting every day.
“I would always go to the YMCA before school of after school or the high school and just find time to shoot hoops [and] there was a machine and I would shoot on that a lot,” Bradley said.
To quantify just how smooth of a stroke Bradley has, he had a career free throw percentage of 93.4, which is a state record and at the time ranked second highest nationally.
As he began to realize his D-1 potential and saw what the next level of competition had in store, he knew he had to broaden his expertise.
“As I got older, I realized I needed to work on other things besides just shooting, like lifting weights and that type of stuff, so I started doing that,” Bradley said.
But the transition to college didn’t put a damper on his three ball and practice there of.
“That hasn’t changed. He’s stuck with that routine. He gets up a lot of shots, I know that,” Hansen said.
As Bradley and the Norfolk Panthers began to make noise around the state, Bradley became a well-known name and face within the basketball community. Bradley says it’s something that was always handled well at Norfolk.
“I was treated as a normal kid. I actually really liked that too. No one talked to me like I was a super star because I honestly wasn’t,” Bradley said. “So I was just a hardworking kid who played basketball. I was friends with everyone, and I accepted everyone and they all accepted me.”
It was in the bigger profile areas where Bradley drew more attention.
“It honestly was a bigger deal there- in Lincoln and Omaha more than Norfolk. That was kind of interesting to me,” Bradley said.
Despite some saying he lacked in size of athleticism to play D-1, a rarity for most basketball players who come out of Nebraska, it was always a goal and dream of Bradley’s.
“I’ve always wanted to play Divison-1. That was one of my goals. I got an offer from UNO, and I liked a lot of things about them,” Bradley said. “I feel like I had enough support from everyone around me that I could do what I put my mind to.”
Hansen and the rest of the staff at UNO saw a place for Bradley in the program.
“He’s always been an exceptional shooter, and has a great work ethic too,” Hansen said. “I was talking to his coaches and he had a no nonsense attitude in the way he approached the game, so [those] were some things we liked about him.”
The challenges that Bradley was expected to face have been a focus of his practice and training.
“The speed of the game and the strength and the size and all that were some of the big things that I had to adjust to, so being in the weight room a lot was one of those things that helped me. And foot speed,” Bradley said.
Hansen has seen improvement.
“I think in his two years here, he’s done a great job with our strength and conditioning people,” Hansen said. “He’s gotten quicker. He’s a little faster in some areas, so I think he’s done a good job there. He’s just got to be ready when his name’s called.”
When not in class, practicing with the team or getting shots of his own up in the gym, Bradley loves to collect shoes. The “sneaker head” has over 60 pairs of Jordans.
In the offseason the North Eastern Nebraskan has been spotted playing pickup ball at HPER where word from the grape vine is “he doesn’t miss a three.”
Bradley is just playing the game he loves when and where he can.
“Anytime I can just play basketball to have fun it’s just what I like to do, so going to a rec-center to play is because I love playing the game,” Bradley said.
A team player first and a shooter second, Bradley had the green light to add whatever else he wanted at the end of our phone call, his response:
“We’re having a pretty solid year. We are looking to keep improving and do something good with the rest of this season. We have a lot of hard working guys and good pieces on this team, so look for us to do something special.”
UNO will be back home for the first time since Dec. 22 when they face Denver at home Thursday and South Dakota Saturday.