A different kind of leadership

Senior guard Crystal Bradford still not 100 percent, working to get back soon

Nearly eight months ago, Crystal Bradford’s basketball career took a turn for the worse.

After a summer of grueling rehabilitation, the reigning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year is back to prove she is still among the nation’s elite gaurds.

Last season’s Central Michigan University women’s basketball team played in the MAC Tournament without Bradford. The Chippewas leader sat out due to a season-ending knee injury.

“I had a great support system,” Bradford said. “I had my family, I had my friends, I had my coaches and I had my trainer helping me get back to where I needed to go.”

The senior guard said she sees this as her second opportunity.

“Recovery was a life lesson,” she said. “Basketball and life play a part with each other. Sometimes you will get at your peak and then you will take a tough loss. But you have to keep your head up and stay positive.”

That attitude helped the 2013 Olympic medalist cope with the frustration of dealing with the devastating setback.

“I just took it a day at a time,” Bradford said. “It wasn’t easy. Sometimes you can roll your ankle or something like that. A knee injury is nothing like that.”

Fellow senior Kerby Tamm said although Bradford is not at 100 percent, her presence and resiliency in the face of a destitute team sends a message to the rest of her counterparts.

“She brings such great energy to the floor,” Tamm said. “She’s a game changer. Having her go out last year was definitely a bummer for us. She’s on her way to coming back and making a great impact. We’re excited to have her back on the floor.”

Head coach Sue Guevara said that she is being cautious about her best talent despite growing anticipation for her return to the court and the obvious on-floor influence she has.

“Crystal wants to get in all the time, but right now we are on a basis of three minutes in, and seven minutes out,” Guevara said. “I told her that the most important thing is for her to be 100 percent on Jan. 3 when we open with Kent State.”

Being patient is not something that comes naturally for Bradford.

“It’s (Guevara’s) call,” she said. “What she feels, I’m comfortable with. Just don’t keep me over there too long. I don’t want to get stiff. Coach knows when I’m ready to go, and if I’m sitting too long, I’ll let her know. I trust her 100 percent.”

Bradford said she has grown much more intellectually than she has physically from her summer of rehabilitation.

“I have grown mentally, spiritually and I have grown to be a leader,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t have actions when you’re not able to play. So I have definitely learned to be a better leader.”

Bradford cannot deny the sense of hesitation or doubt that creeps into her mind as she attempts to regain her natural aggression and scoring power.

“Sometimes getting back out there is so mental,” Bradford said. “You have to remind yourself, ‘don’t limp, you’re ok you can run, you don’t have to limp’. I’m out there (on the court) physically, I just have to get back out there mentally.”

As she enters her final year at CMU and her team begins its run for a MAC title, Bradford asks fans to consider one thing above all else.

“I want people to remember my heart,” she said. “I want people to remember how hard I play and how I leave everything on the floor. I want you to get chills when you watch me play.”