Baby Braves Growing Up
(Peoria, IL) – Brian Wardle has been building the Bradley Brave program brick by pain-staking brick and the 2017-18 season seems to be the time when Peoria natives will see more of the fruit of Wardle’s efforts.
Wardle has taken the long view, recruiting high school players rather than signing the quick fix transfers and junior college players. Wardle speaks non-stop of building culture, players of character and maintaining values.
Some of Wardle’s chief values are education and training. Bradley received the highest APR ranking in the Missouri Valley Conference. Wardle utilizes video extensively to train the players both individually and collectively. He is one of Valley’s leaders in innovation in that arena. He sits often with his individual players in the video room to train and to encourage his young squad.
He told us education has to be a high priority and has to be motivated by the head coach.
Two players to watch on this season’s team are South Sudanese center Koch Bar and St. Louis freshman Ryan Stipanovich. Bar is at the center (figuratively and literally) of the Bradley rebuilding program and Stipanovich is a multifaceted player. Though Bar is young (he’s a sophomore) and inexperienced (he hasn’t played basketball very long), Wardle says he has a knack for the game. He calls Stipanovich a winner.
Joining Stipanvich in this year’s freshmen class is three-star forward Elijah Childs. The 6’7 Childs hails from Lee’s Summit, Missouri and is more highly rated than the St. Louis native Stipanovich. They join junior college transfer Luqman Lundy to add three quality players to Wardle’s deep and cohesive team.
Wardle’s coaching record at Green Bay (95-65 – .594) found his teams increasing their win totals every year until topping out with back-to-back 24-win seasons. During his fourth season (of five) the Phoenix were the Horizon League regular season champions. After winning five games in Wardle’s first season on The Hilltop, the Braves improved to 13 victories last season.
(Next Up – Wardle and Illinois State coach Dan Muller discuss the I-74 Rivalry Series.)