When he was playing basketball for Tennessee, Dane Bradshaw was both a fan favorite-as evidenced by his selection to the Vols’ All Century Team-and a media darling, because he was a quote machine.
Part of the reason for that was Bradshaw, who finished playing in 2007, was a broadcasting major who had an eye toward a career in media after his playing days were over. Though he took a detour when he became president of Thunder Enterprises and began working with prime real estate in his day job, Bradshaw has kept his hands in basketball-and the media-with various gigs on television and radio. He even wrote a book, Vertical Leap, that sold nearly 15,000 copies.
This week Bradshaw returns to familiar territory when he subs for Bert Bertelkamp as color analyst for the Vol Network. Chalk this one up to the old line about being a tough job, but someone has to do it. Bradshaw gets to cover the Vols in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which begins play on Thursday. While Bertelkamp tends to a previous commitment and veteran play-by-play man Bob Kessling takes his place on the Derek Dooley Deathwatch when he calls Tennessee’s football game at Vanderbilt, Bradshaw and long-time Chattanooga sportscaster Randy Smith will bring Vol fans the action on a radio station near you (106.5-FM in Chattanooga).
The jaunt to Puerto Rico will take Bradshaw and wife Julia away from their 10-month old son, Baylor, for a few days, but Bradshaw’s mom was only too happy to make the trek from Memphis for babysitting duties. Bradshaw recently moved to Chattanooga so he can be closer to one of his primary projects for boss John Thornton’s company-the scenic Jasper Highlands development.
“I’m excited to see Tennessee play and get to call some games,” said Bradshaw, who will bring a unique perspective to the games given that he has played against most of the Vols in the Rocky Top Summer League in Knoxville.
“I’m pretty familiar with the key players,” Bradshaw said. “I don’t know as much about some of the newcomers, but it won’t be too tough for me to catch on. As far as the other teams (in the Puerto Rico field), that’s why I bought a copy of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. This isn’t like a national broadcast. I’ll be focusing on Tennessee. I’ll know enough about the other teams in the field, but my emphasis will be on the Vols.”
Bradshaw has pinch-hit for Bertelkamp before, but only for one-off gigs. He’ll be on the air for three consecutive days as the Vols wind their way through the Tip-Off field that includes, among others, NC State, Oklahoma State, UMass and Penn State.
Bradshaw is a quick study. He did most of his damage at Tennessee in his final two years playing for former coach
Bruce Pearl. Misused or underused his first two years, Bradshaw-who was 6-foot-4 and about 215 pounds in his prime-became a revelation when Pearl switched him to power forward, where he made some memorable plays. His last-minute baskets to beat Florida twice in the same year the Gators won the national championship (2006) and to seal an ESPN-televised victory over Oklahoma State (2007) have been etched into Tennessee hoops lore.
Interviewed by Nooga.com on Monday, Bradshaw gave a glimpse of what Vol fans who aren’t able to watch ESPN2 this week can look forward to when they tune into the games in Puerto Rico. Here’s Bradshaw’s take on some key Tennessee personnel:
Junior point guard Trae Golden: “I’m high on Trae as far as what he can become. This year is an opportunity for him to take the next step. Last year he took some heat from fans and media for making turnovers or bad decisions at inopportune moments. But in his defense, he didn’t play much as a freshman and he gets handed the starting point guard role under a new coach and a new system.
“He was probably one of the worst defenders on the team, so he was trying to learn to play defense for the first time, learning a new offense and learning to be a pass-first guy after leading the state of Georgia in scoring in high school.
“This is the year he puts it all together. He’s much more comfortable leading the team and playing defense. And a guy with that much scoring ability, you don’t want him to just pass, pass, pass. You want to let him go make plays.”
Junior shooting guard Jordan McRae: “He’s got probably, in the backcourt at least, the highest ceiling on the team in terms of potential. Some people might say, ‘why is he not starting then?’ To me, a coach loves to know exactly what he’s going to get time in and time out. Skylar McBee (the starter at two guard) can make sure the offense is flowing right and there are no defensive lapses to start the game off.
“McRae can come in and give them a boost off the bench. Cuonzo Martin has basically said Jordan’s a starter for us.”
Redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous, a 6-5 occasional power forward who has been compared to Bradshaw: “First of all, he better have higher goals than trying to be the next Dane Bradshaw. But he can play (the four) if he’s smart enough to beat the offensive post player to the spot. He’s got to be able to front the post and rely on backside help. You’ve got to have some instincts about you and have quick hands.
“But big men you’re going up against would rather face another 6-8 post than a quick 6-2 guy so they can make the same moves they’ve been working on all week.
“On the offensive end, if you can step out and be somewhat of a threat from the 3-point line, they’ve got to guard you a little bit, and you can beat them off the dribble. For me, I wasn’t a fast, quick player at the guard spot, but when I got moved to the four spot, I was really quick for my position. Chievous might not have been the fastest, quickest guy on the court, but he is now. That’s an advantage.”