For 2009, Texas is bringing in one of the top basketball recruiting classes in the nation and heading up the class is All-American guard Avery Bradley. Inside Texas sat down with Bradley as he prepares for Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game to talk about his thoughts on Texas’ season, his victory in the dunk contest, what he wants to bring to the Longhorns next season and more.
Inside Texas: What’s it been like being with the other All-Americans this week?
Avery Bradley: It’s fun to be here with all these players who are really good and love basketball like I do. It’s just a good experience and I’m blessed to be able to play in something like this.
IT: How was last night and winning the dunk contest?
Bradley: It was fun. It felt good to win. We were just out there having fun and to be able to win something like that, looking at the names of the players who’ve won it before me, that felt good.
IT: I saw your reaction. Were you a little surprised that you won?
Bradley: Yeah, I was really surprised. I’m not even sure how many points I won by, but I knew it was close and I was just happy that I won. But, yes, I was surprised.
IT: The game itself is on Wednesday. You looking forward to showcasing your ability?
Bradley: Yeah, definitely. I’m looking forward to being able to rep where I’m from, Tacoma, Washington, to show that good players come from everywhere and show that Washington has good basketball players. I just want to go out there, have fun and represent the West. The main thing is to just go out there and have fun with my teammates.
IT: Your rise into the national spotlight has been very rapid. When did it all start for you?
Bradley: Each year since the eighth grade I’ve always wanted to be known. (Fellow Tacoma guard and fellow All-American) Abdul (Gaddy) was my motivation. Tenth grade year Adbul got ranked high and had a good summer. He always pushed me when we worked out and my game just got better and then during the summer I proved that my game got better and then I just got better and better. It proved that hard work pays off.
IT: Obviously we’ve seen your offensive ability and your athleticism, but you’ve said you pride yourself on defense.
Bradley: It’s hard to separate yourself from a lot of people, but I learned that the best way to separate yourself is to play on both ends of the floor because a lot of high school players don’t do that anymore. So that’s what I try to do.
IT: What are your thoughts on Texas’ season and how the Horns did?
Bradley: I mean, I feel like this year was, not a “rebuilding” season, but they weren’t as strong as they’d been in years before. So, I think they had a good season, they could have beat Duke and I feel like they played good this year.
IT: What are your expectations for next year’s team?
Bradley: Next year’s team, I feel we’re going to take it. We’re going to have a good chance to win the Big 12 title and it should be a strong team next year, strong defense and strong offense. It should be fun.
IT: Would you personally like to get out there early and even start?
Bradley: Me personally, I’d like to do whatever they’d like me to do. I’ll focus on the defensive end, offensive end, whatever. People say I’m coming in and replacing A.J. (Abrams), so that’s what I’m planning to do. I’m just going to play hard every single day.
IT: NBA-wise, is there a player you really watch and pattern your game after?
Bradley: I love watching (Oklahoma City Thunder forward) Kevin Durant play, but our game is a little different. I definitely watch (Oklahoma City Thunder guard) Russell Westbrook because a lot of people compare me to him. We play similar games. We both bring it on offense and defense. That’s the kind of player I model my game after. I’m going to wear number zero next year. That’s my guy right there, Russell Westbrook.
IT: Have you always felt the comparisons are there between you two?
Bradley: Definitely. He was a shooting guard who had to learn how to play point guard and I’m in this transition of doing the same thing. We’re similar to each other. In a special to Inside Texas, reporter Christopher Stock sat down with Avery Bradley in Miami, where Bradley will participate in the the McDonald’s All-American Game Wednesday night. Stock also writes for Inside The U, ESPN.com’s Miami affiliate.