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Bradford joins Bucs hoops

Kelly Hodge • Apr 25, 2014 at 8:49 PM

East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow is still looking for a couple of big men, but the spring recruiting class starts with size in the backcourt.

Desonta Bradford, a 6-4, 185-pound point guard from Humboldt, became the Bucs’ first official commitment on Thursday. Bradford was the Class A Mr. Basketball this season and led his team to a state championship in 2013.

If you liked A.J. Merriweather, the Bucs’ high-energy freshman from Jackson, you’re probably going to like Bradford. The two come from the same neck of the woods in West Tennessee – “30 minutes from gym to gym,” says Bartow – and share many of the same personality traits.

“Desonta is very much in the mold of A.J. – super kid, very humble, makes guys around him better,” Bartow said Wednesday. “He has an incredible basketball IQ and a great pace to his game. He’s a great athlete that never looks out of control.”

Bradford averaged 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists as a senior for a Humboldt team that surprisingly was knocked out in the sectionals. He was the Region 7-A MVP and a first-team all-stater.

Bradford reportedly drew interest from Murray State, Butler and Southeast Missouri State, among others, but his only official visit was to ETSU.

"I knew it was the place I wanted to be as soon as I stepped on campus," he said. "It was just a nice place with good people, and I liked everything I saw. It was a comfortable fit."

Among those who made Bradford feel comfortable was Merriweather. He had starred at Jackson South Side, a Class AA school less than 20 miles away, and Bradford knew all about his basketball exploits.

Merriweather started 32 games for the Bucs as a freshman and averaged a team-high 6.3 rebounds and 9.5 points.

"I talked to him a lot when I was up there," said Bradford. "He told me a lot of good things."

Bradford should be an interesting addition to the backcourt at ETSU.

Sophomore Petey McClain has been the starting point guard for most of two seasons. He’s a pass-first playmaker and a good defender. Devin Harris, a sturdy 6-4 freshman, showed some flashes of potential late in the season and figures to push for playing time come fall.

Bartow said Bradford was recruited with the thought that he’ll have the ball in his hands often when he’s on the floor.

“We recruited Desonta as a point,” said Bartow. “He can score, but that’s not the best part of his game. He just knows how to play and is versatile enough with his size to do a lot of different things.”

After getting acquainted with his new teammates in pickup games during his visit, Bradford expects a smooth transition ahead this fall.

"I see myself fitting in real good," he said. "We've got a lot of guys coming back who can score, so I'll be able to just pass the ball and get everybody involved. I like that."

With Bradford in the fold, Bartow and his staff now turn their attention to securing some size inside. The Bucs lost most of their bulk with the graduation of Hunter Harris, Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and Lukas Poderis.

Karl Overstreet, a 6-10, 245-pound center from Hargrave Military Academy, signed during the fall recruiting period. Swingman Maurice O’Field, who has been attending classes while getting his academics in order, will get another of the available scholarships.

That leaves two more for Bartow to play with. He doesn’t expect any more signings in the next few days.

"It's obvious we need some size, and that's what we're concentrating on right this second," said Bartow. "We're involved with six or seven guys, and if we can get two of those it will be a very good year."

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