There is little doubt this has been the season of Crystal Bradford for the women’s basketball team.
“It’s very important that Crystal understands her role,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “Quite frankly, she is our best player. I’ve said this to the team and I’ve said this to Crystal, we go as Crystal goes.”
This season’s stats back up Guevara’s words. Twenty-eight games into their 30-game regular season, the Chippewas have scored 2,325 points. Bradford has scored 551 of those points, equating to 23 percent of the total scoring.
The statistical dominance doesn’t stop there.
Bradford leads Central Michigan with 323 rebounds, 118 assists, 74 steals and 35 blocks.
“I’m just stepping in,” Bradford said. “You have to step in to do things. Everything I can do, I am just doing.”
She has 25 percent of the team’s rebounds, 28 percent of the assists, 31 percent of the steals and 46 percent of the blocks.
“She’s got long arms, so she’s like a big octopus with those long tentacles,” Guevara said. “Sometimes when you are watching and you look and all of (a) sudden there is this tentacle. It’s obviously the left hand and it’s like ‘Wow, how was she able to snag that ball?’ I just want her to do it more often.”
Though she has a very important role on the team, Bradford is quick to complement her teammates.
“My team is hitting shots and it’s huge because it opens up the defense,” she said. “(I have) 23 percent, but there is the other 77 percent, which is obviously my team, so I think we are all producing.”
At another level
One of Bradford’s strengths that can be considered a weakness in the eyes of Guevara, is when a game is on the line, Bradford has the need to do it herself or she has to make something happen.
Guevara also took note of Bradford’s unselfishness and leadership.
“I think Crystal is pretty grounded,” Guevara said. “She gives a lot of props to her teammates. She doesn’t have this big head about her.”
Opposing defenses run into plenty of problems with the Central Michigan offense. Although Bradford leads her team statistically, some of her teammates are not far behind.
Senior Niki DiGuillo has 371 points this season and junior Jessica Green accumulated 108 assists, while junior Jas’Mine Bracey has snagged 293 rebounds and 316 points.
Opposing players have two options when guarding Bradford: Play her one-on-one or run two or three players at her.
The amount of attacking options then opens up space for Bradford and in turn, her teammates.
“She’s really good at finding the open people,” Guevara said. “It’s her ability to get into the lane, to elevate and score, which brings out Jas’Mine Bracey’s player over. Now she has the dump to her. She is looking for teammates and I think her teammates have been finishing and that’s why her assists have gone up.”
Despite scoring 531 points last season, the 6-foot Detroit native has found ways to elevate her game during her junior year.
“(I’ve improved on) making plays,” Bradford said. “Not just scoring, but just play-making period. I worked on everything. (I was) improving everything by 1 percent.”
Guevara has seen improvements in other areas, mainly in practice.
“She has to go at people like she is in a game,” Guevara said. “If I can make sure every drill stays competitive, she just rises. She doesn’t want to lose. If you ever played checkers with her, she wouldn’t want to lose at that either.”
While has room to grow, Guevara said her future is bright.
“In her mid-range game, I think that shot needs to be better,” she said. “She out-jumps a lot of people, so she doesn’t put contact on people. I really, truly believe this kid is going to play at the next level, so I think she has to refine some things to be successful here, which will transcend to the next level.”