Ninth of a series...
Sometimes, despite one's best efforts, there is a sense that not
everything that could have been achieved actually was.
Jim Bradley accomplished a great deal when he played basketball at
Harbor High School before his graduation in 1975. His team at
Seminole Junior College in Oklahoma was also quite successful. When
he finished up his collegiate career with at the University of
Hawaii-Hilo, the Vulcans also did well.
Still, when talking to the 52-year-old Bradley, who has maintained
his residence in Hawaii, his thoughts eventually shift back to the
notion that his teams didn't perform to the ability of which they
Even though his Harbor team of his junior year reached the Class AA
regional tournament, Bradley felt it could have been better. He also
felt the Mariners of his senior season of 1974-75, a year in which
he shared Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year honors,
should have gone farther.
"I totally think we underachieved my junior year," Bradley said. "I
think we should have made it to the state tournament.
"We only lost John Coleman going into my senior year, so I didn't
think we had lost very much that year. I think we should have gone
to state that year, too."
Although Bradley had impressive high school credentials, having
averaged 22.5 points per game as a senior, he had only mild interest
from four-year colleges, so he opted for junior college ball. That
got him to Seminole Junior College.
"I almost signed at Ohio University because (Ashtabula standout) Al
Benton was there," he said. "But I mostly only had junior-college
"I had the attitude that maybe I was better than that and should
have had better offers. I decided to try junior college ball to
build up my resume. I went to Seminole because it was the first
school to show interest in me."
The 6-foot-31⁄2 Bradley gradually worked him way into a starting
position at Seminole and earned all-conference honors as a freshman.
The Trojans went 19-11 his first year and 23-9 his sophomore year.
But Bradley's hopes of landing with a Division I program were not
realized. He ended up connecting with Hawaii-Hilo, a National
Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school. The Vulcans made
the NAIA nationals in his junior season there and fell short of the
national tournament in his final season.
He had a brief tryout with a semipro team in Hawaii, but that didn't
work out, either, and his basketball career ended in 1979.
Bradley may not have reached the goals he had in basketball, but
that didn't detract from the perception of those he played with, for
or against as a great player. His accomplishments at Harbor have led
to his selection into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation
Hall of Fame on March 29.
Armstrong, Bradley's coach at Harbor for his junior and senior
seasons, said he had all the attributes one would seek in a player
of Hall of Fame caliber.
was a very consistent player," he said. "He's the closest player I
ever had to averaging a double-double. He scored in double figures
in all but one game he played his last two years. Jim was also a
remember in his junior year having 26 points and 14 rebounds in the
district final against (Warren) JFK. He played so well with (ACBF
Hall of Famer) John Coleman in getting us to regional. And then he
was the county MVP his senior year. And he used his skills to move
on in the game to Hawaii."
Armstrong said he enjoyed working with Bradley as a person, too.
was a fine person," he said. "He was a very coachable kid."
Bradley is proud of his recognition.
think this is great," he said. "I definitely feel it's an honor.
really appreciate the people who took the time to nominate me. I've
never had this kind of honor before."
proud of being in the company again of his old teammate, Coleman,
and to share a similar distinction with his cousin, former Harbor
football standout Kaiser Holman, who entered the Ashtabula County
Football Hall of Fame last December.
found out there might be something like this when Kaiser went into
the football hall of fame," Bradley said. "Having played with John
Coleman, I'm really honored to be back together with him."
Bradley grew up in the neighborhood around West 5th and 6th Streets
in the Harbor district. He is the ninth of 10 children and the sixth
of seven sons of Iola Bradley, who still lives in Ashtabula, and the
late Jesse James Bradley.
sisters are Geraldine, the oldest child, Addie and Willie Ruth. His
brothers are Jesse Jr., Ellis, Amos, William, who will accept his
Hall of Fame award, Larry, who is deceased, and John, who teamed
with Jim as a standout player at Harbor.
Bradley first started playing basketball in the fifth grade at
Washington Elementary School.
coach was Richard Bryant," he said. "My older brother, Larry, played
for him, too."
he moved to Columbus Junior High, he played for Frank Knudsen, who
would later become one of the right-hand men for Hall of Famer Frank
Roskovics with the Harbor girls, in seventh grade. Robert Potts was
his coach with the Raiders in the eighth grade.
junior high team beat the freshmen," Bradley said.
he was still in junior high, Bradley shot up from 5-6 to 6-2.
was 6-2 when I played on the freshmen team for Ron Chutas (the
future Grand Valley girls coach)," he said. "I had aspirations of
playing with the varsity when I was a freshman, but they wouldn't
move us up."
"they" Bradley referred to was (retired Jefferson High School
principal) Larry Bragga, who was still the Harbor varsity coach in
Bradley's sophomore year. Bradley started out at the JV level for
actually moved Ray Henton and Al Ziegler up to the varsity before
me," Bradley said. "I replaced (Ohio State football's offensive
coordinator) Jim Bollman."
Bradley held Bragga in high regard.
"Bragga was probably the best coach I had had," he said. "He had
great knowledge of the game and he demanded respect."
Mariners, who included Coleman, Bradley, Henton and Jim Goodwin,
finished 14-7, won the Northeastern Conference championship and
earned a Class AA sectional title in an era when only 18
regular-season games were played.
had high hopes when his junior year rolled around. But Bragga left
for Jefferson and Armstrong returned for his second coaching stint
with the Mariners.
was nothing against Armstrong, but we wanted Bragga," he said. "We
knew we had a good team.
had a hard time adjusting to the different coaching style. I don't
think we had quite the relationship with Armstrong that we had with
the Mariners performed at a high level. They finished with a 19-4
record, claiming the NEC championship and winning Class AA sectional
and district championships.
Bradley had a great deal to do with those achievements, averaging
16.6 points per game. He scored 19 points in the Mariners'
district-semifinal win over LaBrae, then followed it up with his won
game against JFK in the district-title game.
game that I really recall was from my junior year against Geneva,"
Bradley said. "We were down by seven points with less than a minute
to go and came back to win."
Following that season, the Mariners still seemed to have the
elements of a fine team despite Coleman's graduation. One of the
replacements for Coleman was John Bradley.
felt John should have been a starter," he said. "It was the politics
of the times."
the Mariners struggled to a 10-9 record and lost in the sectional
tournament. That didn't keep Jim Bradley from having a great season,
as he averaged 22.5 points per game, sharing the county Player of
the Year honor with Conneaut's Denny Sabo.
Despite being a prolific scorer, Bradley took pride in his defense,
had that attitude that I could score on anybody and I could hold
anybody down," he said. "I took a lot of pride in playing well at
both ends of the court."
he classified as underachievement left Bradley with a deep sense of
had a lot of anger at the end of my senior year," he said. "We had
great records, but I still think we underachieved."
of that feeling was born of a feeling that racism ran throughout
much of the decision-making in Ashtabula.
"There was a real sense of racism in the community," Bradley said.
"I don't necessarily think that applied to Armstrong. But we as kids
didn't understand what was going on in the community.
have always been against racism in any way. Racism still bothers me
even today. That's one of the reasons I got away from Ashtabula as
quickly as possible when I graduated from high school. When I had
the opportunity to get away from it, I did."
Bradley acknowledges he did not handle the circumstances well at the
think I overcame a bad attitude with talent," he said.
Armstrong is surprised by Bradley's comments.
there was any racism, I was not aware of it," he said.
Getting to Oklahoma really wasn't as big a change for Bradley as one
"Seminole is about 45 minutes from Norman (home of the University of
Oklahoma) and an hour from Oklahoma City (the capital)," he said. "I
really don't consider Ashtabula a city, so going to Seminole wasn't
a big deal. Most all of my teammates were people from big cities."
Bradley felt his time there was one of personal growth. He had also
grown in stature to 6-31⁄2.
developed so much confidence at Seminole," he said. "I was really
shy off the court. I think I really blossomed out there. I became a
totally different person.
really opened up. It was good for me to get away."
it took him a while to make his mark on the team.
sat behind a couple other guys at first, but I worked my way into
the lineup eventually," he said. "I made all-conference my first
the Vulcans never made the junior college national tournament,
despite very respectable records.
thought we underachieved there, too," Bradley said.
felt racism played a part in all the decisions made by the Seminole
"Everybody on the team was black," Bradley said. "Things didn't go
well at Seminole. I came out of there not getting any Division I
offers. The closest thing to it was Southwest Missouri State."
Through some connections he made while at Seminole, Bradley got
his opportunity to go to Hawaii. The only thing was, he had
hoped to hook on at Division I Hawaii-Manoa. Instead, he got the
call from Hawaii-Hilo.
"I had a tryout back at the University of Akron, but in the late
summer, I decided to go to Hilo instead," Bradley said.
As it turns out, he found a home with the Trojans and,
ultimately, a permanent home in the 50th state.
"Being out there, I lost any shot at really going farther in
basketball, but school was good at Hilo," Bradley said. "My
junior year, we made it to the NAIA nationals in Kansas. We lost
to Grand Canyon University, which was the eventual champion, in
the second round.
"The end of my career was pretty disappointing. We lost in the
regional championship game to go to nationals my senior year."
Bradley had a tryout the next year with the Hawaii Volcanos, who
had come to the island of Oahu, the next year.
"I got to try out, but they had a bunch of Division I players
they brought in, too, and I really didn't have much of a
chance," he said. "My basketball days ended in 1979."
But he stayed the course and finished his education at Hilo.
Jim Bradley, a former star
at Harbor High School,
hammers home a dunk for Hawaii-Hilo at the
collegiate level. Bradley will be inducted into
the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation
Hall of Fame on March 29 at the Conneaut Human
finished my degree in 1982 with a major in sociology and
psychology," Bradley said.
he was still finishing his education and for a while after he got
his degree, Bradley worked in two other industries.
worked at a sugar cane factory, which was the biggest employer on
the island at the time, for three years," he said. "Then I worked
for Mid-Pacific Airlines, a small independent airline, for about
he wanted to put his education to good use. He found the answer at
the Hawaii Department of Public Safety's Kulani Correctional
was trying to use my degree for social work," Bradley said. "They
offered me the job as their recreation specialist. It's kind of like
being an athletic director. I've been doing it for 22 years now."
Living in the tranquil environment of Hawaii for so long and the
passage of time has put matters in a somewhat different perspective
had to mellow a bit," he said. "I hold no grudges against
(Armstrong), even though at the time, I felt things were wrong.
was looking at things from a kid's standpoint. And I wasn't stopped
from getting anywhere in life."
principles of basketball still resonate for Bradley.
"Basketball has meant a lot to me," he said. "I think every kid
should be involved in a team sport. It teaches you how to get along
with people and how to work together.
have to get some direction in life."