This time last year, Ladamien “Poppa” Bradford was leading the Jonesboro-Hodge boys basketball team to a second straight district title. Now he is demonstrating his extraordinary talent in the Southeastern Conference at Texas A&M University, being only the second basketball player in J-H history to play in the SEC.
It was a huge leap from living with family and playing at a small high school in north Louisiana to sharing an apartment with other three other players he never knew before arriving on campus and performing in one of the best conferences in America but Bradford has obviously adjusted well. This is evidenced by him being a main rotational player and his comfort in his new environment.
“It was an adjustment for sure. I had to get used to not only being away from home but also to the demands and requirements of college life and playing at this level,” said Bradford in an exclusive interview with the Jackson Parish Journal this past Thursday. “It didn’t take to long to get settled in though. Everyone on the team from the coaches to the players helps each other. It is a really good family atmosphere.”|
Another adjustment that Bradford had to make was going from being the “go-to-guy” that he was for four years at Jonesboro-Hodge, where he led the team to a 2018-19 Class 1A state tournament, to being just another member of the team, but again, it was one that Bradford has taken in stride.
“I knew from my experience in the AAU circuit where everyone was the main guy at their high school that coming in everyone is basically on the same page at this level,” continued Bradford. “You have to earn your way. There are no short cuts and nothing is given. It all boils down to who works the hardest at being the best they can be.”
Bradford has put in the effort. A prime example is the change in his physique since he joined the Aggies. The Texas A&M basketball guide shows that when Bradford entered college he weighed 223 pounds. According to Bradford he was actually about ten pounds heavier. Midway through his Freshman season he now tips the scales at 204 lbs. and despite the loss in weight has gained considerably more muscle mass.
“It wasn’t that I was in real bad shape but I saw right from the start that I wasn’t in the where I needed to be,” reflected the Freshman guard. “The college game is a lot faster and much more physical. It requires that you are in the best shape you can be so I have been working hard at my conditioning.”
He gives credit to his grandmother, Fayetta Bradford of Jonesboro and the coaching staff for helping him along the way and for keeping him in the right frame of mind through the everyday rigors and demands that is required of a collegiate athlete.
“From the time I came to live with her, Granny has always preached to me that I have to put in the effort and work hard everyday to get what I want,” said Bradford. “Our coaching staff does the same. Our team motto is Nunc Coepi, which is a Latin phrase meaning Now I Begin. I try to live by those words as I know that I have to prove myself everyday.”
Bradford is also thankful that Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams and the staff helps him not only improve as a basketball player but spiritually and mentally as well. Attending classes is a requirement that the coaching staff keeps a check on and attending church services is heavily stressed. Even on game days.
“The main reasons I wanted to come to A&M was that the coaches promised that they would help me become not only a better player but a better person too,” recalled Bradford. “They have done everything they promised me they would do to help me become a good man and be accountable.”
Coming out of high school Bradford was listed as a three star prospect and the 51st ranked shooting guard in the nation by ESPN. This season he is usually the second guy off the bench to enter a contest and plays around ten minutes a game. While he is thankful to be in the main rotation he knows that in order to gain more playing time, which is his desire, he has to do better in a couple of areas.
“I haven’t shot the ball that well so far this year and I need to improve on my defense but I am working hard to improve on both,” said Bradford. “Playing in college is like having a job and you have to put in the time each day in order to keep it.”
The communications major, who hopes to be a sports broadcaster after his playing days are over, is also working hard on getting his degree as he knows that there will come a day when he will be forced to hang up his sneakers.
“The ball stops bouncing for every basketball player at one time or another,” said Bradford. “You can’t play forever and when the time comes for my next stage in life I want to be prepared.”
Wise words from a man so young in years but what else would you expect from a man who was given the nickname of “Poppa” when he was just a lad.