Seventh-grader leads Davidson Day girls hoops team
by Chris Hunt
Everyone at Davidson Day School knows girls basketball player Alexas Bradford just can’t sit still – from the teachers, to the students, to even the Patriot coaches.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 5-foot-4 point guard is her boundless energy. Spend an hour with Bradford, and you’ll eventually catch her dancing in the gym as if she’s on one of the music videos played by her favorite TV show, BET’s “106 & Park.” She’ll often sway back and forth, even when there isn’t any music.
And when Bradford applies her energy to the court, she’s tough to beat. She dashes between defenders like a veteran player. In a blink of an eye, Bradford can take her opponent left and then right, finishing a shot with either hand.
Bradford’s unique skills make it easy to forget she’s only a seventh-grader playing against varsity opponents sometimes four or five years older. But Bradford, the Patriots’ sparkplug, is just 12 years old.
But what Bradford lacks in candles on her birthday cake she makes up for with confidence. Although she’s the only middle-school student on the varsity squad, Bradford still leads Davidson Day in scoring, rebounding and steals. She scored a season-high 23 points against Elon High on Dec. 9.
“I don’t think we ever expected her to be our leading scorer,” said Davidson Day assistant coach Jennifer Shiley. “We thought she could lead our offense, but what she’s doing at her age is uncommon. I don’t think you’ll find too many middle-school students performing at the level she does.”
Bradford plays like a high-school senior, but when you sit down and talk with her, you’ll find the innocence of a girl still trying to find her way in the world. You wonder if she realizes the uncommon situation she’s in, but it appears Bradford doesn’t seem to notice – or care – that she’s the smallest player on the court.
“I don’t let the older players scare me,” Bradford said defiantly. “I just try to play big. I don’t want to shrivel up. I try to play tough and show my strength.”
Bradford’s fearlessness is one reason Davidson Day coaches are comfortable making her a varsity starter – most likely for he next six seasons.
But there never was a concern about whether Bradford could handle the pressure on the court. She’s had a basketball in her hands since the days she started watching her older sister, Sasha, play at Northside Christian Academy and later as a senior at Harding during the 2006-07 season.
Davidson Day coaches were more concerned with off-the-floor issues that Bradford would face as member of the team. So when they told Bradford she made the varsity squad, it was more a compliment to her off-the-court maturity than her ball-handling skills.
“From the first time she took the floor, she looked like she was supposed to be (on varsity),” said Shiley. “But we still had a discussion with her family about the expectations of a varsity player and how she would fit in with the older girls. She handles herself with a good bit of maturity.”
Her older teammates have never had a problem with Bradford, unless opposing players try to intimidate the youngest Patriot.
“She’s our little sister,” said junior captain Jasmine Hamilton. “We look out for her. We tell her to hold her own as a seventh-grader. We tell her not let our opponents get in her head and treat her less than she is because she’s in seventh grade.”
An old soul
Although still very young, Bradford’s a very complex individual, a combination of innocence and discipline. One moment, she can appear wise beyond her years when she explains how she takes in the game – “I’m a visual learner,” she said. Moments later, she shows her youth by saying, “at a young age I started loving basketball because I was good at it and everyone was saying, ‘Yooooo, she’s good,’ when I played.”
You could also describe Bradford as part youthful enthusiasm/part old soul.
When she isn’t bouncing from one place to the next, she unwinds by reading books with music playing in the background. Bradford admits she’s a voracious reader and claims to have read the entire “Twilight” series – four vampire-themed romance novels by author Stephenie Meyer – in a week.
“(Reading) frees my mind and allows me to take a physical break,” she said. “While I read, I listen to a little R&B, hip-hop or old-folk music like Luther Vandross – stuff my parents like.”
Bradford’s also the first Patriot to start dancing in front of teammates until laughter fills the locker room. Instead of following her older teammates’ lead, Hamilton said Bradford teaches them the new dance moves.
“We all dance together in the locker room, and sometimes it can get out of control,” Bradford said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, pull me back (to reality).’”
Clearly, Bradford has been living her short life full-speed ahead. Unless, of course, she’s reading and listening to old-folk’s music.