Thursday night will mark, probably, the last time that Marcus Tyus and Jalen Bradley face off against each other, a match up Maverick fans never expected to see.
Seeing Marcus Bradley and Jalen Bradley in Omaha gear for the first time gave me a mix of emotions.
The first time I saw Tyus in person, he was coming off the bench to play a Western Illinois squad in the Ralston Arena. He came into the game, and it appeared as if someone replaced the muscle in his arms with paper mache. He didn’t scored any points and had only had 1 rebound, and I just found myself wondering why the hell the Mavericks were not redshirting this kid for his own benefit, and for the benefit of the program having him another year when they officially had a chance at making the post season. The Mavs decision to not redshirt Tyus was apparently made the day before the 2012-2013 season started.
I questioned what this skinny guy from Minnesota could do. I remember searching the ends of the internet to find any information I could on this freshman, and there was nothing. This was a time, where it was easy to question why a kid would want to come play basketball at a school transitioning to division one. There was nothing out there, almost as if he never existed.
That same season, we saw another freshman of that recruiting class, Jalen Bradley, sitting at the end of the bench who was redshirting. As a fellow Nebraskan, it was easy to know where to go to get the details on Bradley. It was known that he was a great shooter, and probably needed to work on his defense and point guard skills. The fans that showed up to games in 2012-2013 could watch Bradley come out before the beginning of warm ups, and watch him drain half court shots as easy as free throws.
Omaha was the only school to give Bradley a division one offer at the time, and I’m not sure how much stock you want to put in Omaha’s division one status at the time. As far as I can tell, Omaha was also the only division one offer for Marcus Tyus.
The question I had back then was: why are the Mavericks redshirting this one kid who appears to have the exact same positives and negatives of this other kid?
This may sound as if I was resentful toward Tyus over Bradley as a freshman. I was not. Both players were part of maybe UNO’s best recruiting class, but perhaps the 2015 recruiting class will prove to be a bigger asset to the program. With the Mavericks coming closer to post season eligibility with each passing season, it was understandable that the recruiting would improve year-after-year.
With the recruiting continuing to improve, I never imagined either Tyus or Bradley to become starters for the Mavericks. I was always under the impression that they would have been the high energy and highly efficient guys first off the bench when the transition period was over.
The first impression of Tyus wasn’t great, but after time you could see there was a spark to his game. At first, he may have seemed as just a shooter. There was an efficiency to his game, something that many Mavericks at the division one level had not had.
He handles the ball with ease, and moves around screens into open shots or open lanes to get wherever he wants on the basketball court. Tyus even rarely makes a pass that has you wondering what he could have possibly been thinking in that scenario, unlike many other stars that have come through the Maverick program.
In Tyus’ sophomore season, he saw a slight increase of minutes in the line up due to injuries to senior Justin Simmons. At the time, it became maybe questionable as to why Tyus was getting the start over senior Alex Phillips. Tyus’ efficiency on the offensive end could have been the deciding factor as to why he got the starting job.
From his freshman to his sophomore season, Tyus’ points per game average increased by 3.4 points per game, and his minutes only increased by 1.5 minutes per game.
While Tyus was seeing success, Jalen Bradley was struggling to see the court as a Maverick. Bradley only played 9 minutes per game as a freshman, which were mostly garbage time minutes, and his lone season as a Maverick was cut short due to an injury. Still, when Bradley saw the court, he was never timid to score. He averaged nearly 5 points per game in his limited time, shot 50 percent from the field, and 40 percent on threes.
With the addition of Devin Patterson, I’m sure Bradley felt he may never see the court with the Mavericks, and that maybe there was no role for him in Omaha.
Bradley’s transfer for more playing time was understandable, but when Tyus went down with an injury toward the end of 2014-2015, Bradley’s presence on the basketball court would have been much appreciated.
With the loss of Tyus, and having no Bradley, the Mavericks were left without an efficient guard who could knock down threes with ease. Can you imagine Omaha with Jalen Bradley on the court in 2015-2016 without Marcus Tyus? The Mavericks would have had a knock down shooter. He would of had the bigger role he was seeking.
Even without an injury to Tyus, Bradley would’ve eventually found a role with the Mavericks by his junior season. Both the Omaha and Oral Roberts coaching staffs have given him a high amount of praise for how hard of a worker he is in the gym and in the weight room. He may have had even the same role at Omaha as he currently does at Oral Roberts, but obviously the cast of Omaha could be different at this point had he stayed.
But Bradley did leave, he averaged over 17 points per game in junior college, and picked up interest that led him to being a Golden Eagle, so we’ll never know what could have been.
I am not sure if there are any ill feelings from Bradley toward Tyus for being part of the reason he didn’t get a lot of playing time in Omaha, but in their first meeting as opponents, Bradley helped the Golden Eagles cruise to a victory and had 24 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and only had 1 turnover while Tyus dealt with foul problems and only had 10 points.
According to the commentators, Bradley had his parents in attendance in Tulsa…and also according to them, you always play better in front of your family. Bradley will surely have his Nebraskan family seeing him in Omaha Thursday night, and they will definitely show up to see the senior play in Vermillion, where his sister also plays basketball.
Back in 2012, we never envisioned a day that we would see Bradley and Tyus going up against each other. As Mav fans, this might be awkward for us. Rooting on Tyus to defend Bradley well, but still kind of okay with Bradley having a good game.