Do you remember the 2003 Golden Eagles of Marquette that marched their way to the Final Four? Do the names Dwyane Wade, Travis Deiner and Steve Novak ring a bell? It was the basketball world’s first up-close glimpse of Wade and his athletic heroics.
Now, seven years later, even Switzerland is feeling the impact.
Wade has won an NBA Championship, been a six-time NBA All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist, so his effect on the game of basketball can hardly be questioned. However, beyond the marketing and commercials, he is having a strong yet indirect impact on the international game.
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The 2004 Marquette team included a freshman combo guard that you may not have heard much about. His name – Karon Bradley. A star out of Houston Cypress Springs High School in Texas, Bradley joined the Marquette team and was excited about the opportunity to play for Marquette, home of the late, great, coach Al McGuire.
Like most freshman, Bradley quickly noticed a significant difference between the high school and college games. Bradley says, “Everything from individual workouts to conditioning was tough, and the game was a lot more physical. “
However, his adjustment included an even greater challenge: “I had to be 100 percent every day to play against Wade and be able to compete. He is the greatest player I’ve ever played against.”
Imagine facing that challenge as an 18-year-old freshman. The responsibility of battling Wade every day was quite a daunting task, but Bradley rose to meet the challenge, knowing it was bound to help him improve his own game. After Wade departed to the NBA, Bradley transferred to finish his career at Wichita State, where he helped lead the upstart Shockers to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006.
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As he continued to improve, he took his game to Europe. Bradley has played in Hungary and spent multiple seasons in Switzerland, coming armed with the knowledge that if he can hold his own with Wade, he can play against anyone in the world.
Bradley admits with a chuckle, “compared to guarding Wade every day, the competition in Europe is blah.”
Bradley is quick to point out that the leagues and level of play in Europe can vary greatly: “The competition in Europe is good overall. It is not the NBA, but it is good. But there are certain leagues that are not as competitive as playing in college.”
Bradley is proving himself to be a valuable and highly desired point guard, averaging over 17 points and 5 assist per game in the top division (LNA) of Switzerland.
Though the stat sheet makes it look like an easy adjustment, Bradley shares that “the toughest part about playing overseas is the different style of play and the language barrier. Sometimes it’s just hard to understand what the coach and organization want you to do.”
With different rules and a different style of play, there is a definite adjustment from the college game. Bradley describes a unique difference that he contrasts with his college days: “In college, the coach wanted us to work the shot clock and make the other team really defend us for a while before shooting. Here, the coaches don’t mind getting up and down for a quick shot. So as athletes, they aren’t faster but the approach is different and they get up and down and take faster shots.”
Both the 24-second shot clock (as opposed to 35 in college) and the trapezoid lane change the game by speeding up the offense and opening up the middle of the floor. But despite these various differences, Bradley agrees that if you can adjust to the college game, you can adjust to playing overseas.
This perspective resonates with a number of other Americans playing overseas who acknowledge that the grind of college basketball forces you to get better, and that if you take the right steps, you will be better prepared to have a great career abroad.