Tuesday might have been the most bittersweet day in Central Michigan women’s basketball history.
Less than an hour after being named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, junior guard Crystal Bradford sustained a left knee injury during practice at McGuirk Arena. Bradford was unaware she had won the award at the time of her injury.
As she sat on the practice bench with tears in her eyes and ice on her knee, Bradford was quickly surrounded by her teammates and coaches. It was then that CMU head coach Sue Guevara announced to the team that it was collectively consoling the MAC Player of the Year.
“I was petrified that (Bradford) would get on her phone and find out that she was MAC Player of the Year,” Guevara said. “I brought the team over to her. As happy as we all should have been, here is the MAC Player of the Year sitting here crying.”
The undisclosed injury will sideline Bradford for the entirety of the MAC Championship tournament in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend. Bradford’s initial MRI was deemed “inconclusive.”
No timetable was immediately available on her return beyond the MAC Championship. Guevara said Bradford will be reevaluated medically after the tournament.
“We still have goals to accomplish so there is not time to hang my head low,” Bradford said. “If my team wasn’t motivated before they are motivated now.”
Bradford plans to make the trip to Cleveland with the team, while using crutches and wearing a knee brace.
“I expect her to be our biggest cheerleader,” Guevara said. “She is going to be so supportive of her team. I know she feels really sad. She feels like she is letting the team down.”
“I wish I could play this weekend. I wish I could practice right now,” Bradford said. “I’m going to be out there screaming at my team. They are going to feel my presence, definitely.”
Bradford averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds and nearly five assists per game during the 2013-14 regular season. She led the conference in rebounds and steals this year.
The junior was named the MAC Player of the Week a league single-season record eight times. She also holds the career record with 14.
Bradford led the Chippewas to a 16-2 conference mark and undefeated home record.
The Chippewas begin their quest to repeat as MAC Tournament Champions Friday at 2:30 p.m. when they play the winner of “Game 8,” of the tournament.
“It’s a learning experience for her and a growing experience for our team,” Guevara said. “Other people will have to pick it up. After (the injury happened) the team was shook. Our team knows what needs to happen.”