Bradley men’s basketball took the first step of the 2021-22 campaign on Monday afternoon by conducting its first official day of practice.
Following practice, senior forward Ja’Shon Henry and head coach Brian Wardle met with the media via Zoom.
Here’s what you need to know from the team’s first week of practice.
Tahvanainen injures foot
According to a release sent to the media on Wednesday afternoon, junior guard Ville Tahvanainen suffered a foot injury at practice this week. The 6-foot-4-inch sharpshooter is currently in a walking boot.
Per the release, Tahvanainen is “expected to return to the lineup during the non-conference season.”
Last season, Tahvanainen led the team in 3-pointers (47) and averaged 8.6 points per game.
Henry designated as senior leader
As one of two seniors on the roster, Ja’Shon Henry appears to be the foremost leader on Bradley’s roster.
Henry said that at the beginning of the summer, Wardle challenged him to be more of a vocal leader in a one-on-one discussion.
“I think in my past three years here, I’ve been more of a leader by example, just by doing,” Henry said. “This year, I’m really trying to step up the vocal leadership and things like that, and really embrace it. I think that’s a really exciting role to finally be in now as a senior.”
Wardle said that Henry has already done a good job of making sure this year’s team bonds away from the practice court.
“I know he’s done a lot with this team,” Wardle said. “Getting them together, eating on the weekends, spending time together on the weekends — you can kind of feel they’re a pretty connected group. So he’s kind of headed that up as a senior.”
Henry is set up to be one of the Braves’ largest on-court contributors as well; the 6-foot-6-inch Canadian is the only returning player to have averaged more than 10 points per game last season.
Boya is back
Wardle says that 7-foot-1-inch senior center Ari Boya has no lingering effects from the broken foot that he suffered last season.
Boya played in the first nine games of the season in 2020-21, averaging 5.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. Following Bradley’s Dec. 22 game at Missouri, Boya missed the rest of the season.
Though the big man is healthy, Wardle said that the coaching staff is planning on being cautious with him.
“We’re going to be smart on how many days he goes in a row and what days, based on his rehab and schedule,” Wardle said.
Jayson Kent steps up
When asked about players that have improved the most, the first name that came out of Wardle’s mouth was sophomore guard/forward Jayson Kent.
“He’s more comfortable, he’s confident, he’s stronger,” Wardle said of the lanky sharpshooter. “He’s buying into his role right now … He’s doing a lot of things better than he did a year ago.”
In 23 games played and four starts last season, Kent showed flashes of greatness including a 11 point performance on Dec. 22 vs. Missouri and a season-high 15 on Feb. 27 to help push Bradley past NCAA-Tournament bound Drake.