crystal bradford

by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Crystal Bradford’s mother had a vision that her daughter would go to Central Michigan, a program that before last season hadn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1984.

“My mom really wanted me to go here,” the Detroit native recalls. “I really didn’t want to. But she kept saying, ‘I had a vision,’ and ‘God’s got a plan for you.’” A bit dubious, but ready to create a legacy, CB turned down the likes of Louisville and Michigan State and traveled northwest to put Mt. Pleasant, MI, on the map.

After leading the Chippewas in points, rebounds, blocks and steals as a soph in 2012-13, she exploded onto the national scene in March when she hung 36 points, 14 rebounds and 7 steals on 2-seeded Oklahoma in the Tourney.

Bradford’s performance left an impression on OU’s Sherri Coale, whom USA Basketball cast as its head coach for the past summer’s World University Games. As the only mid-major representative on Team USA’s roster, Bradford didn’t just make her presence felt—she sunk the biggest shot of the tournament: a game-winner against Australia in the semi-finals.

“I thought I would be just coming in the game and giving somebody a breather,” says Bradford, who finished fourth on the team in scoring. “Not because I lack any talent, but because these people don’t know me, they don’t see me play.”

Always comfortable with the ball—and her team’s hopes—in her hands, the crafty lefty capped a 34-point, 12-rebound effort with a last-second triple to beat Dayton 94-91 in CMU’s 2013-14 home opener. She may have not had the vision herself, but Bradford, who was averaging 19.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals is proving mom right. “I didn’t see the vision or understand. But now I see it as I get further along. I see the plan, and I just got to stick to it.”