Updated: Jul 9, 2020
As the ninth most populated state, North Carolina produces quite a bit of basketball talent, with almost three dozen players from the Tar Heel state currently active on NBA rosters. This makes the early accomplishments of Cannon School sophomore guard Jaden Bradley so noteworthy, considering that he was seen as a near unanimous choice as the state player of the year.
Bradley and top ranked prospect in the 2022 class, Emoni Bates, were the only sophomores this year to win both Gatorade Player of the Year and MaxPreps Player of the Year for their states. He also did this while leading Cannon to its first state title since 2006 — Bradley poured in 27 points in the 71-69 win over Charlotte Latin in the Class 4A Independent Schools final.
During his sophomore campaign, Bradley finished with averages of 23.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.9 steals, leading Cannon to a 27-6 record along the way. While he is originally from Rochester, New York, he has really warmed up to North Carolina and it seems the local schools are reciprocating, to say the least. His most recent offers are from blue bloods: UNC and Kansas. He’s already accumulated around 20 offers, overall, including some high profile ACC, Big 12 and SEC programs.
Currently viewed as one of the top point guards in the class of 2022, Bradley is great both on and off-ball, an accomplished slasher who is creative in finding space and finishing around the basket. With a developing jump shot, he can create off the dribble and has impressive strength on drives. He also displays confidence as a handler and advanced passing acumen, along with defensive awareness that becomes key when moving up to the next level.
In this interview, Bradley talks about his family background, his move to North Carolina, his views on North Carolina’s most famous basketball player, his development, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Jaden Bradley, from Concord, North Carolina:
PI: Congrats on Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina and the State Championship. You’re the only Sophomore at least since 2000 to win that award in North Carolina, and join recent winners Wendell Moore (Duke), Coby White x2 (Chicago Bulls), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), and Dennis Smith (New York Knicks). That’s a high-level group. How does that make you feel to join them?
Jaden Bradley: Winning that award, I’m extremely blessed to join a group like that. I want to thank my coaches, teammates, and parents for putting me in a position to be successful. Every night, I was put into a position to be great on the court and off the court.
PI: Talk about your background. Where are you from?
JB: My family is originally from Rochester, New York. We moved to North Carolina about five years ago. I went to a school called Winkler, and after a year there, I transferred to Cannon, which is an awesome place. I have two older brothers. One is a senior in college who played at Faulkner University (An NAIA school in Montgomery, Alabama). Nathan Bradley. They were pretty good. They made it to the tournament in Kansas City, but with the coronavirus, they weren’t able to finish it off. This was his last year unfortunately. He went to high school in Rochester at Bishop Kearney.
PI: What’s your family like?
JB: My dad is in law enforcement. My mom does project management. They are pretty fun people to be around and awesome parents. My dad trains me and works me out a lot. He teaches me a lot of stuff on the court and off the court helping me be a better person.
PI: Who’s the funny one in the family?
JB: Probably me.
PI: What was your transition like moving from Rochester to Concord?
JB: Very different places. At first, when I heard the news that we were moving to Charlotte, I wasn’t too happy about it. My family and my cousins lived right across the street, so everyone was in one area. At first, the move was just okay. I knew a couple people. After a couple of years went by, I started getting more comfortable, made more friends, and had a better opportunity down here.
PI: How did your parents break the news to you that you were moving?
JB: We were all sitting in the house when they came back from work. They brought us into their room and told us right there. At first, I thought they were just kidding and playing around to be funny. They were serious. My dad had a job transfer, but it also was a good opportunity for me. My brother was a senior in high school, so he was getting ready to go to college anyway. I was the only kid going to North Carolina.
PI: What do you miss most about Rochester?
JB: Probably the family environment. Everybody knew each other. We all lived in the same general area. I sometimes go back in summer, once or twice a year to see my family.
PI: What have you enjoyed the most about being in North Carolina?
JB: Creating new friendships and new bonds. The teammates that I have push me and I’m happy to have those guys in my life.
PI: Your high school coach, Coach Che Roth calls you “Silk.” Tell us the story of how that nickname came about.
JB: It came up in open gym. We were playing pickup, 5-on-5, getting up and down the court. I think he calls me “Silk” because of the way I was moving up and down the court. I guess it looked effortless. It just stuck from there. I rarely get to hear Jaden from him anymore. I made my teammates call me Jaden though.
Jaden’s high school coach, Coach Che Roth later told Pro Insight that this came about when Jaden was only in 6th grade making it look easy while playing against Division 1 players and former pros that were back in Charlotte.
PI: Peyton Manning made a video congratulating you on your Gatorade Player of the Year award. What were your emotions when you saw that?
JB: I was shocked. When I first saw the video, there was a lot going through my head after just getting named Gatorade Player of the year and knowing that my hard work paid off.
PI: Do you play football or any other sports?
JB: I played football in middle school. I was decent, you could say. I played Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver. I used to play baseball too.
PI: With most things shut down right now due to COVID-19, what are some things you’re doing to stay ready and keep your basketball skills and conditioning up?
JB: My brother is back from college, so I have someone physical and better than me to train against. We have a court in the backyard that we go out to.
PI: What do you find yourself doing most outside of basketball while quarantined?
JB: I’ve turned into a big gamer. I’m on the game a lot. I wasn’t a big gamer before. It just kind of happened. I play 2K, Fortnite, GTA, pretty much everything. I’ve also been hanging out with my family and watching movies.
PI: What do you miss most from the normal world and why?
JB: Getting in the gym with my teammates and getting up shots. Running up and down the court. I miss being with my friends and being in the gym able to compete.
PI: Biggest passion/hobby outside of basketball?
JB: I’m in band class. I play baritone saxophone. It’s a bigger version of a saxophone. I was kind of forced into it. My parents made me do it. I like it now, though.
PI: What Netflix shows are you burning through?
JB: I think I’ve pretty much watched everything on Netflix. The other day, I watched Bad Boys 2 with my parents. That was a pretty good movie. We have movie night every Thursday and last Thursday I picked a scary movie because I knew my brother wouldn’t like it.
PI: What’s your favorite movie?
JB: I’d probably say Space Jam. It’s obviously a basketball movie with the cartoons too. And Michael Jordan. It has a little bit of everything in it.
PI: Are you excited for Space Jam 2?
JB: Excited to see what they have. I don’t know if LeBron can do what Michael Jordan did in that, but we’ll see.
PI: So is MJ your GOAT?
JB: Definitely. He was tougher back then. I’ve been watching The Last Dance with my family.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball?
JB: I watch a lot of basketball. I would say 80% of what I watch is basketball stuff, whether it’s an old game, film, or something like that. I watch more college right now. I think there’s more IQ in college vs. the NBA being more 1-on-1.
PI: Is there a player you look up to or try to learn from?
JB: My brother. I watch a lot of his stuff. I want to be like him when I get older. He still can’t beat me in 1-on-1, though. Other players I watch, NBA-people, Kyrie Irving. I like the way he comes off ball screens, creates his own space, and finishes well at the basket.
PI: Who’s your all-time starting 5?
PG: Michael Jordan
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Shaquille O’Neal
PI: Walk us through this season. Cannon had a lot of success and it culminated in a state championship. What did you learn?
JB: Last season, we lost in the second round of the playoffs after a bye week. Coming into this season, that was on our backs and our minds. We knew we wanted to win state from the beginning and possibly go to New York City to compete. In the off-season, we worked hard. Everyone was together and we bonded pretty well on and off the court. We were always checking on guys to see what was going on in the classroom and things like that. Beginning of the season went great. We played more out-of-conference games early. We had some ups and downs this season. One of our players, a senior guard, got hurt. He was kind of our energy, voice of the team. Other players had to step up. It was kind of a next man up mentality. People stepped up in that moment. When we came back into conference play, we sparked. We went undefeated and won our conference. Coming into state, we played Charlotte Latin. It was our third time playing them, so we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game. We just had to give it our all and we came out on top. The biggest lesson I took was to fight through adversity. Our point guard was hurt. Also, our big man was out for basically the entire season. He came back and played a couple games. It was the next man up mentality and no feeling sorry for anyone. We had to fight and grind.
PI: When did you start receiving interest from schools?
JB: My freshman year of high school. I started picking up interest and offers and coaches started contacting my father.
PI: Where are you in your recruiting currently?
JB: Currently, I have 20-plus offers. My latest offers are from Kansas and UNC. I recently took an unofficial at Auburn when they played Kentucky. I’ve been to Tennessee, Wake Forest, and UNC when they played Duke.
PI: Describe your game. What are your strengths?
JB: I like to get everybody involved, so a pass-first point guard. Downhill, when I get in transition, I like to attack the basket. I can stretch the floor and shoot it. I like to defend. I think defense starts great offense, so I’ve got to get it done on the defensive end.
PI: What can you continue to improve at?
JB: Being a better leader. Knowing when to take over games and not coming out being non-aggressive. I can always improve in ball-handling, shooting, finishing through contact, and all those little things.
PI: You got a great taste of USA Basketball in a multitude of camps last year. Tell us some about the experience. What did you learn?
JB: USA basketball has been a great experience playing against the top players all over the world and country. Having great coaches teach us the little things that matter when you’re in a room full of talented guys. It’s the little things that stand out like diving on the floor, taking a charge, helping your teammate up, and things like that.
PI: Who’s the toughest player you’ve had to guard?
JB: They’re all tough. I’d say the older guys like Sharife Cooper and Josh Christopher.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life? Why has that stuck with you and what did you learn from it?
JB: I’d say last year, in our playoff game after a bye. We were playing against, not necessarily the weakest team, but they weren’t looked at as highly as us. We came into the game and I think we were too comfortable. When we lost, we were in the locker room for 20 minutes just thinking and realized we needed to work harder and that stuff wasn’t going to be handed to us.
PI: Who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
JB: My parents and my older brother, Nate. Just seeing how hard he works on and off the court sets a great example for me and leads a path.
PI: What’s the best piece of advice that he has given you?
JB: Keep your head down, stay in your own lane, and don’t worry about what everyone else says about you. They’re not in the gym with you. You just have to work hard.
PI: Describe your life 10 years from now.
JB: I want to play at the highest level of basketball I can play, whether it’s overseas or in the NBA or something. Also helping out and giving back to the community.
PI: What are four words that describe Silk Bradley?
JB: Hard-working. Determined. Competitive. Tough.
PI: What’s something no one knows about you?
JB: Just that I play in the band. I’m an open book otherwise.
PI: How do you want people to remember you?
JB: As a great person who is helpful, humble, and hard-working.
Watch the full interview with Jaden, here