Bradley Ready to Turn the Corner
(Peoria, IL) – Is this the breakthrough year for the Bradley Braves? Head coach Brian Wardle thinks it could be. For the first time in Wardle’s tenure in Peoria there will a significant upper classmen presence and in year three, there is an established culture, work ethic and optimism surrounding Braves basketball.
We spent time with the head coach and asked him a wide array of questions concerning the state of the program, Missouri Valley Conference expansion and how he is going about building the Bradley program.
The first things you notice when visiting Wardle and the Braves’ practice facility is how ‘big time’ the facilities look and feel, and the energy and passion of the former Marquette player displays. Wardle’s body language says ‘let’s play, let’s practice, let’s get something done!’
After coaching the youngest teams in college basketball his first two years, Wardle relishes the idea of coaching players that have been through the wars of Division 1 basketball. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin believes a coach’s program is really in place in his third year, and that is the year he should expect success. I asked the Bradley third year coach if he agreed.
The Braves won just five games in Wardle’s first season and improved to thirteen victories last season. Four of those victories came during the final three games of the regular season and the first game of Arch Madness.
Two players Wardle will be leaning on are senior Donte Thomas and transfer Luqman Lundy. Wardle loves the passion and work ethic that Thomas brings to the team and while he has built his team through high school seniors, he felt it was time to inject some experience into the lineup in the form of Lundy.
With the top nine scorers from last year’s team returning, including leading scorer Darrell Brown (12.6 points per game and the team leader in assists), leading rebounder Thomas (6.6 per game), shot blocker Koch Bar, and a line up that includes numerous internationals, the Peoria fan base is invested in program, but also are engaged with the individual players.
Wardle says the fan base is optimistic and should be due to the commitment to win by university officials.
In future installments we will discuss the MVC expansion, more of Wardle’s coaching philosophy and what’s next in Bradley basketball.