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Column: Men’s basketball is still on upward swing

Rising senior Elijah Childs stares down an SIU player at the 2020 Arch Madness Tournament. Photo by Anthony Landahl.

Since head coach Brian Wardle and his staff arrived at Bradley, the men’s basketball team has been trending upward. Each year, it has improved its record and gained respect across the country. 

This season’s team featured three scholarship redshirted players – freshman forward Rienk Mast, junior guard Terry Nolan, junior guard Kevin McAdoo – but the team also had multiple players go down with injury or illness throughout the season. Elijah Childs, Ari Boya, Ville Tahvanainen and walk-on Riley Burger all missed games due to injury or illness.

The team will simply be better next season. 

Childs drew praise from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo after last season’s NCAA game. Boya is one of 11 players over seven feet in Division I ranks and averaged 1.4 blocks per game in 10.5 minutes of action. Tahvanainen scored and rebounded at a better clip than Kennell did his freshman year, the logical replacement for Kennell is already on the roster and he’s got a head start on development. 

Although Burger didn’t play due to a foot injury he was always smiling and that goes a long way. Mast is a better Luuk van Bree as evident by his 9.3 point and 4.4 rebound performance in the Netherlands professional league. Van Bree struggled professionally before arriving in Peoria. Nolan was third in most categories at Atlantic-10 member school George Washington his sophomore year. He has an outgoing personality and a great athlete that will be a delight to watch on the floor at Carver. McAdoo had up and down games at Eastern Michigan but averaged 8.6 points per game his sophomore season.

Nolan said he is confident that next year the Braves will win the MVC once again next year when he’s in a uniform rather than on the bench.

“We have the weapons, we have the pieces, we have the mentality, and now we have the experience and so we think we can do it,” Nolan said. “We were like their third eye, we helped them out to see things maybe they didn’t see, adjustments. We just gave them energy.”

And energy is what Bradley is built around, especially defense and transition offense. 

Nolan was named to the all-defensive A-10 team following his sophomore year. Although Mast is yet to fully practice with the team he is also excited to get on the floor as a player. The 6-foot 9-inch forward with 3-point range will be something to watch out for. 

With six healthy bigs next season in rising junior Ja’Shon Henry, Childs, Boya, Mast and two freshmen scorers in Connor Linke and Darius Hannah, the Braves will be something to watch out for. 

They return a big who keeps getting better with Boya, a relentless undersized rebounder and interior scorer in Henry and one of the top players in midmajor basketball in Childs.

Although the starting backcourt of Darrell Brown and Nate Kennell graduates, Bradley fans can be confident with Tahvanainen’s consistent 3-point shot, Brown’s “little brother” Antonio Thomas, Danya Kingsby who has been around the block, and Nolan along with McAdoo.

“The future is bright. I’m 1,000 percent confident that they are coming back to the ship again next year,” graduated guard Luqman Lundy said following the 2019-20 MVC championship game. “It’s just the culture that we are building and that’s a testament to Coach Wardle and just sticking with it.”

“Next year we are looking to do the same thing and get a three-peat for Bradley,” Nolan said.“It’s doable, it’s possible and we believe it’s going to happen.”

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