Ford reflects on first Bradley season
To head basketball coach Geno Ford, resilient is an apt description for this year’s men’s team.
“Typically, when you see a team lose as often as we did, by February they quit. Our guys did not quit,” said Ford about the 2011–12 Braves, who finished 7-25 overall and 2-16 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The coach said progress and process also were important words.
“The whole year, that’s what it’s been about,” he said. “We did make progress. It would be great if it was a light switch you could have someone go and flip. I’m not scared off by one bad season. It’s part of the evolution of a program.”
Ford saw positives, in spite of the school record for losses in one season and in the MVC. He cited a lack of off-court distractions and issues, the team’s competitiveness, and getting players to understand the physical commitment at the college level.
Classroom success also was a plus. Ford noted the team had the highest grade point average in school history.
“We had two MVC first-team, all-academic selections,” said Ford, citing WALT LEMON JR. ’14 and CHARONN WOODS ’12, along with second-team choice JAKE EASTMAN ’13. “We had more academic honors out of our team than any other school in the conference.”
He said improvement means not only bringing in new players but getting consistent performance by veterans.
“Consistency is more important than occasional greatness,” said Ford.
With two recruits to the program, Ford said he intends to continue recruiting through the spring. Ka’Darryl Bell, who played at Oak Park-River Forest High School in suburban Chicago, and Tyshon Pickett from Dodge City Community College in Kansas are the new Bradley recruits for 2012–13.
“They’re going to help us immediately with our competitiveness,” said Ford.
Despite the losing record, Ford noted more than 10,000 fans attended the team’s final game against rival Illinois State.
“There is tremendous support and complete love for our team. It is appreciated; it doesn’t go unnoticed,” he said. “We will be working to get the program back to where everyone would like to see it.”
— Bob Grimson ’81
Bradley got chilled in Minnesota on March 18, ending the season with an 85-59 loss to the Golden Gophers in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. The Braves ended with an 18-16 overall record, 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Earlier, Bradley had its strength in reserve to fight back from a 20-point deficit and overcome visiting Tennessee Tech 74-71 in the opening round of the WBI on March 14.
Played at the Renaissance Coliseum, it was the first postseason game on campus in program history and the second time in three years that Bradley played in the postseason.
The Bradley bench scored 40 of the team’s 50 second-half points against Tennessee Tech. LATASHA HOLLINGSHED ’12 matched a career high with 21 points.
Also in March, Bradley had five players score in double figures in an 85-67 victory over Southern Illinois in the opening round of the MVC Tournament. In a seesaw battle that saw eight lead changes and 10 ties, the Braves lost to Missouri State 58-54.
Oh, what a night
Three months earlier, December 17 was a memorable night for the team and its coach.
The Braves beat Iowa 96-88 for coach Paula Buscher’s 200th career victory. It’s her 12th season at Bradley, making her the longest-serving coach in the program’s history. She also has been a collegiate head coach at Minnesota State, Mankato, and the University of Nebraska, Omaha.
Along with the milestone victory:
- It was the Braves’ first home victory over an opponent from the Big Ten Conference since December 3, 1999.
- KELSEY BUDD ’14 became the first Bradley women’s player to score 30 points in a game since January 2007.
- The 1,506 fans broke the attendance record for a women’s basketball game at the Renaissance Coliseum.
“It was one of those memory moments. We had a great crowd and Kelsey just had a night,” Buscher said.
— Bob Grimson ’81
TAYLOR BROWN ’12 was named honorable mention All-Missouri Valley Conference. Also honored by the league was WALT LEMON JR. ’14 on the Most-Improved Team.
The All-MVC team is selected by head coaches, sports information directors, sportswriters, and announcers. The Most-Improved squad is chosen by sportswriters.
Brown tied for sixth in scoring in the conference and was ninth in rebounding before injuring a wrist early in February and missing the final three games with a partially torn ligament in his foot.
Lemon was Bradley’s second-leading scorer this season. He led the team in steals and was second in assists.
CHET WALKER ’62 will be inducted September 7 into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Walker, nicknamed “The Jet,” was an All-American his three varsity seasons and a consensus pick in 1961–62. A member of the Bradley Team of the Century, he ranks among the school’s leaders in scoring and rebounds. He went on to be a seven-time All-Star in 13 NBA seasons. Walker lives in Los Angeles.