It’s no secret that one of the finest basketball players in the Bitterroot Valley is Corvallis’ Riley Bradshaw. “Red” as he’s known by many coaches and players, has been a force on the Blue Devil team since he was a freshman. His athleticism, shooting skills and knowledge of the game has been a pleasure for basketball fans everywhere to watch. In fact, I have been watching Riley since he was about two years old.
My first recollection of Riley was when he was about two years old and ‘helping out’ while his dad was coaching. Dave Bradshaw has been a coach at Corvallis for almost thirty years and has coached both boys and girls basketball. Being from Victor, I had a passing knowledge of the Bradshaw family since they hail from Drummond – one of Victor’s best rivals. Dave and his brother, Mike, gave the Pirates enough problems that the Bradshaw name became well known in Victor. When Dave Bradshaw and his family moved to Corvallis, the school was still a Class B school and so Victor played them in non conference action.
When he was about a fourth grader, Riley and a couple of his friends were the water boys for the Blue Devils. They could be found filling water cups, handing water to the team and sitting on the bench during the games. But while most boys that age would soon tire of sitting the bench, Riley and company followed the game. They were in the huddle listening to the coach and learning all the ins and outs of the game.
His dad said Riley was about a seventh grader when he realized just how talented his son was.
“I knew he was going to go somewhere (to play college ball.) Then, his freshman year, I knew he was going to be a Division 1 player.)
Dad wasn’t the only one that saw something special in Riley. The University of Montana started showing some interest in the redheaded player. As his stats improved, interest in him grew also. More than once, a coach or two could be spotted in the bleachers, notebook in hand, checking “Red” out. Although he tried to ignore the pressure of the scouts, their presence was felt.
But there is one thing that all will agree about with Riley. He is a hard worker. He put in more and more time in the gym and in the weight room. His long range shot was already tough to defend and he was a scoring leader not only on his team but also in the conference. So what did he do, he worked on his defense and he worked on his passing. The result is a scoring machine that is difficult to stop and a defender who can stop a play.
“I’ve sat and watched how much time he’s put in with me, and with his brother,” said Dave. “A lot of kids put in a lot of time but this kid has brought it to a level that’s pretty impressive.”
Riley spent his last couple of summers playing ball in California and Los Vegas among other places. He had a chance to play with some of the top high school players in the nation and found he could compete with them. His confidence level soared, as did his skills.
Last Wednesday was the National Signing Day for potential college athletes. After being courted by the University of Montana, Montana State and several other universities, Riley Bradshaw signed a Letter of Intent to play for the Utah State Aggies.
“I went down last year and really liked the atmosphere,” said Riley. “I saw how much they love their basketball team.”
Utah State, located at Logan, Utah, is a member of the Western Athletic Conference (the WAC). Last season they finished the regular conference season with a record of 17-1 and an overall record of 29-3. Stew Morrill is the coach and notched his 500th win last season. Morrill coached at the University of Montana in the mid 1990’s but has been at Utah State for 12 years.
Riley said the Aggies usually play in front of 9-to-10,000 people in Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum which has a capacity of 10,270. The crowd is affectionately known as ‘The Hurd’. The experience of playing before such a crowd was the deciding factor for him.
“I wanted to see what I could do, get out there. It was a tough decision. The Griz were looking at me but it came down to where I wanted to go,” he said.
Now that Riley has made his decision, he’s looking forward to just playing ball this season and not having the distraction of scouts and speculation. “It’s nice to have that done.”
Coach and dad, Dave Bradshaw, is also looking forward to this final season as is his mom, Eileen, who has kept the score books for the Blue Devils for many years. It will be Dave’s final season coaching. For all who have watched Riley grow from that little red headed toddler tossing the ball up to the accomplished player he is today, there will be a few bittersweet moments. But then ‘Red’ will flash his smile and slice to the basket; we will just enjoy watching a great kid and great player. And mom and dad will be on the sidelines and at the bench, smiling and storing another memory away, enjoying every minute.