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UNC basketball freshman preview: Tony Bradley

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Getting to know UNC’s new big man.

Texas v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Over the last two weeks we have covered two players in the class of 2016 for the Tar Heels, Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson. This week we look to cap this series off with freshman center, Tony Bradley.

Tony Bradley, like Joel Berry, is a former Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida. He averaged 23 ppg, and 12.6 rpg, while shooting an impressive 65% from the field. The five-star Bradley is the highest ranked player in the class of 2016. Bradley is also the first UNC recruit to be a member of the McDonald’s All-American team since 2014. Seeing how impressive his resume is, combined with the fact that UNC is in need of big man, shows how important Bradley’s signing to UNC really is.

Bradley’s importance to the most recent recruiting class goes beyond the fact that he is a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American. The Tar Heels needed a skilled big man in this class, due to the departure of Brice Johnson and Joel James. Bradley should also see the most playing time of any of the freshmen, as he will be the first big man off the bench, playing the reserve role to Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks. His significance grows even more when you consider how often Meeks and Hicks got into foul trouble last year. Aside from this, Tony will most likely be the inevitable starter the following year, seeing as Meeks and Hicks are seniors, and the forward/center position is very thin for the Tar Heels.

Let’s ask the question everyone is wondering, what will Tony Bradley bring to the Tar Heel program? Bradley is a very skilled, and fundamentally sound big man with deceptive athleticism. His video below shows his skill set and the repertoire he possesses.

Notice that the title of this video is, “The Big Fundamental 2.” Let’s take a deep breath collectively before we do this, but his best comparison is…Tim Duncan. Still with us? Okay, good. I am not saying he’s the greatest power forward of all-time. I am not saying that he will be a five-time NBA champion and two-time NBA MVP. I am saying that not only their game, but also their demeanors seem very similar. I also see some Al Horford in him due to the similar sizes and knack for rebounding the ball, as well as his interior scoring, but let’s stick to Duncan because it’s more fun.

Tony Bradley is truly a throwback post player in an era dominated by guard play. He possesses great fundamentals and is an exceptional rebounder, like Duncan. He is constantly fighting for position and it seems like he is always scrapping for loose rebounds. Bradley also has good hands and great touch around the rim, as well as a consistent baby hook. On the defensive side of the ball, Tony is slowly becoming a shot-blocking specialist, using his 7’4 wingspan to his advantage. He is also a solid post defender, as he doesn’t allow most big men to uproot him and dictate the offense. He needs to develop his midrange game more because as of right now he mostly only possesses interior scoring skills. However, his interior scoring is well polished and groomed.

The reason I stated earlier that his demeanor is like Tim Duncan is because, like Duncan, Bradley has a quiet assassin’s demeanor. There is no real change in emotion, whether he just laid the ball up or threw down a vicious dunk on an opposing player, his stoic expression does not waiver. Don’t get me wrong, the kid can be mean. When he wants a rebound or to carve out space on the block, he can bang bodies with the best of them. It’s just, after manhandling someone is the post, Bradley will run back up the floor with the same expression people show while reading a mundane article (not this one, obviously).

At UNC, the 6’10 Bradley will don the coveted #5 jersey. I don’t want to put the pressure on a player to win over the fans the way Paige, Marshall, Lawson, and Manuel did, but Tar Heel fans are going to flock to Bradley. He is a bring your lunch pail kind of player. No showboating, no pounding of the chest and look-at-me attitude, just hard-working, physical play, and getting the job done.