Crystal Bradford: On Life and Basketball

Detroit senior Crystal Bradford is a dynamic player on Central Michigan University’s women’s basketball team. Introduced to basketball at a young age, Bradford believes her sport is important for many reasons – but for one in particular.

It teaches life lessons.

Since high school, Bradford has been a prominent figure on her team, and even as she advanced onto the next level of her career, she has remained humble and determined. Today, she is living proof that hard work pays off.

Coming out of Inkster High School, Bradford was rated as the No. 37 prospect and 9th best guard in the nation by ESPN. This 6’0” player wanted to attend CMU because of the coaching staff, the private and family-oriented setting and the knowledge that she would have the ability to develop as both a person and as a basketball player.

With a successful start to her playing career as a college athlete, Bradford earned the All-MAC Honorable Mention and was named to the MAC All-Freshman Team in 2011. Since then, she has achieved much more, including five MAC West Player of the Week honors, being the only player in the program’s history to score 500 points and pull down 300 rebounds in a single season, and scored a career-high 36 points in the NCAA Tournament first round against Oklahoma.

Bradford was also nominated as the 2013 and 2014 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Region 4 All-American Candidate, awarded the 2013 MAC Tournament MVP, 2013 World University Games Gold Medalist and 2013-14 MAC Player of the Year Award, amongst others.

Needless to say, Bradford is a force to be reckoned with.

On Bradford’s journey to the top, she has faced many obstacles, including an athlete’s worst fear – injury. Toward the end of Bradford’s junior year, she suffered a knee injury, which has been her biggest obstacle. Despite this setback, she has still managed to be an integral part of her team.

Many will ask, what is Bradford’s secret to success?

A complicated question, but a simple answer: hard work.

“Never giving up, working hard and playing – even after mistakes,” Bradford reveals, is the key to her success.

Having accomplished so much at such a young age, Bradford has had a lot of notable experiences, including some career-altering ones.

“(My most memorable moment was) winning the championship, playing in the NCAA and making 36 points, and then hitting the game winning shot in Russia,” Bradford said.

Being a student athlete is a delicate balance, which is a learned art according to Bradford.

“Getting repetition of doing it took so long. I wasn’t good at it at first, but now I’m pretty used to it – I have really good support,” she said.

There are many people who have contributed to Bradford’s success, including her parents and coaching staff. She said her relationship with her coach Sue Guevara can be described as, “Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant or Dora and Boots.”

“(Bradford) is one of a kind,” Guevara said. “She has a lot of energy and a very high basketball IQ. She’s a fighter, she’s a survivor and she is our go-to. She’s funny and has a pretty quick wit – and you have to be smart to have a quick wit. I’ll miss her smile, the amount of energy she brings on the floor and her confident, humble swag.”

While awards and points scored are imperative to her success, one of the most important things Bradford brings to her team is a positive team spirit.

“She has the ability to impact an atmosphere and everyone’s mood. She brings energy to the team and she is funny in general,” said senior forward Lorreal Jones. “I know whenever we’re together, if I am not in the best mood, she’ll say a joke and it just turns my day around.”

Not only has she impacted long-time team members, but has helped to integrate new ones.

“She’s a really awesome person,” said freshman guard Cassandra Breen. “She has helped me through this first part of my freshman year a lot and she has been a really good teammate. Crystal has taught me to keep my head up, even when I make mistakes, and to keep pushing on to the next play.”

While freshman like Breen still have years to develop in their collegiate basketball career, Bradford’s is nearing it’s end – but she plans to continue with this forward momentum. With plans to go pro and travel overseas, Bradford’s dream is to enter the draft and become a well-known philanthropist.

Motivation is important and contributes to the progress of any athlete’s success. For Bradford, her motivation is driven by not only her past, but also her future.

“All the steps I’ve taken and all the times I’ve been knocked down – there’s no looking back,” Bradford said. “I know what I have to do to get where I’m going. There’s no going back, and that’s my motivation.”