In one of his first chances at getting extended minutes, Jalen Bradley showed what he’s been doing for the past 18 months, since graduating from Norfolk.
About the same as he did in high school.
Bradley, a 6-foot redshirt freshman who is the fifth-leading scorer in Class A history, had 15 points and made all six of his field goal tries in 12 minutes of Tuesday’s blowout of South Carolina State.
“That’s what Jalen has done in practice,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “He’s going to earn minutes by doing that.”
with senior Justin Simmons still considered day-to-day with a back injury suffered early in the South Carolina State game, Bradley could be in line for another significant dose of playing time Saturday as the Mavericks hit the road for an intriguing nonconference game with Drake.
“I’ve just got to be ready when I get my opportunity,” Bradley said.
Bradley has appeared in three of UNO’s five games and also played 12 minutes in the blowout win over Missouri-Kansas City, scoring five points.
For the season, he’s averaging 6.7 points while shooting 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from the field, 60 percent (3 of 5) from 3-point range and 75 percent (3 of 4) at the foul line.
He showed against South Carolina State that he can do more than just spot up for open shots against zone defenses.
“Not only did he spot up and make some, but they flew at him and he made a quick, hard ball fake, got some separation and made another one,” Hansen said. “And he made some extra passes.”
Though UNO plays three guards, Bradley has to fight for playing time with starters Simmons, CJ Carter and Devin Patterson, solid senior backups Alex Phillips and Caleb Steffensmeier, and sophomore Marcus Tyus. Tyus scored a career-high 24 points against South Carolina State.
Hansen said Bradley is among the best shooters to have passed through UNO in his tenure and said he’d likely call on Bradley earlier if a team shows a zone defense.
“Jalen has never done anything to hurt himself. He’s just got to find a place somewhere in the rotation,” Hansen said. “We’ve got really good guards right now.”
Another team boasting good guards is 2-1 Drake, which has two senior starters in Richard Carter (23.3 points per game) and Gary Ricks (10.0).
The Bulldogs’ loss was 67-63 at St. Mary’s, typically one of the better mid-major teams in the country.
Drake is picked to finish last in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference, but returns four players (Carter, Ricks, center Seth VanDeest and forward Daddy Ugbede) who contributed to an upset win over Creighton at the Knapp Center last year.
“They’ll give us all we want and more,” Hansen said.
With close losses to high-level programs Iowa and UNLV and victories over expected also-rans from the Mid-American, Western Athletic and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conferences, UNO will be facing a program that’s somewhere in between its first five foes.
The Mavs hope to post a winning season that could lead to a postseason tournament bid.
“It’s a big game for us,” Tyus said. “We’re coming up as the underdogs again, but I think it’s a game we can get. We’ve just got to play hard and try to get an upset.”