Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Different things to different people

“The coaches at some of the other Yale Cup schools thought I had an unfair competitive advantage because of the intramural program I started at Hutch-Tech!”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. I originally published this series on the Examiner back in 2014 and have subsequently began adding to it. As a teen I dreamt of being a basketball player just like a lot of kids – a dream for which one must have lots of ability, drive, and luck to achieve. My experience turned out to be quite the adventure, and I didn’t formally play basketball beyond high school. The lessons I learned there however, not all of them happy and pleasant, helped me as I progressed into adulthood and into my Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career. As mentioned, when I began reposting this series, I’ve started working on an ambitious writing project chronicling my early basketball journey in Western New York.

If I’m able to get my project published, one of the things that will be special about it is that it’s a story involving real people. The project has required me to do multiple interviews. It has been both an interesting and fun experience. As noted by well-established authors like John U. Bacon, who has written numerous books on Michigan Football, some people are open to being interviewed and being characters in book projects, while others are reluctant. Some agree and then drop out of contact, while others are difficult to contact. As a writer I now understand why some names must be changed in the final story.

I consider my breakthrough interview to be that of Jason Rowe, which led to interviews with others, and I want to thank everyone who participated; some of whom I’ve never met personally. My interview with Jason was followed by an interview with Coach Pat Monti and then his star guards, Carlos Bradberry and Tim Winn. It’s been a fun ride with at least one more big interview on the way, so stay tuned.

One of the key figures in my story is Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, who was the Head Coach of the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team during my freshman, sophomore and junior years. Before he passed away at the end of 2018, Coach Jones told me that he was okay with being a character in my story. In my piece about his basketball camp, I discussed Coach Jones, what I learned from him and what he meant to me.

That was just my perspective though and I discovered many other points of view on Coach Jones in my research. I actually started learning of other peoples’ views of Coach Jones in my junior season where I hit some personal adversities. My struggles, in part, contributed to our team’s struggling and spiraling out of control that season. During my personal storm one classmate sought me out one day and told me that he disliked Coach Jones because he had ‘cut’ his brother years earlier. It was then that I realized that there were many backstories to Coach’s tenure at Hutch-Tech in addition to the successes he experienced my freshman year.

“Most of the time, when somebody is giving you orders and instructions, if you’re not emotionally ready – if you’ve got your mind on the wrong part, you’re not going to try as hard. You’re not going to be into it. You’re not going to absorb as much,” said a player I’ll call “Curtis” about Coach Jones in my interview with him. Curtis was the ‘engine’ that powered Coach Jones’ 1990-91 city and sectional championship team. He said a lot of powerful things during our interview, but this quote very much applies to the relationship between coaches and players, much which I experienced myself, or witnessed with teammates.

One of the cool things about working on a project where you’re interviewing multiple people is that you get to hear multiple points of view. Amazingly, my interviews for The Engineers revealed that Coach Jones was multiple things to multiple people. While there was a group of us who held him in high reverence, appreciated his teachings and the mentoring he gave us, he had several detractors as well. Again, he was multiple things to multiple people. His detractors fell into three groups, some of which might surprise you.

The first group consisted of some of the other coaches in our league called the “Yale Cup”, which was the league for all the Buffalo Public Schools. For those readers unfamiliar with the Yale Cup in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it consisted of fourteen schools. Three schools that no longer exist today are: Buffalo Traditional, Kensington and Seneca Vocational High School.

The Yale Cup was a poorly funded league which lacked a Junior Varsity (JV) program at all its schools to properly prepare its players for Varsity competition. Coach Jones and the Buffalo News called this a “feeder system”. The result was a 14-team league where all of the teams were run differently, and where all the coaches had varying levels of experience and interest. This led to drastically different levels of coaching and attention to detail. Some of the Varsity coaches (Coach Jones included), ran an informal JV program for no extra pay simply because there was a need for it.

We also played in outdated and antiquated facilities. Many of the gyms in the Yale Cup league looked like antiquated factory storage rooms with peeling paint and old industrial smells. Most of our gyms had solid white backboards without ‘break away’ rims. Only a few of the courts, like those at Grover Cleveland and McKinley for example, had ‘regulation-size’ courts with the proper dimensions. Our old little gym at Hutch-Tech was more of a small box than anything. Someone I interviewed recently jokingly said that Performing Arts’ gym resembled a bit of a bowling alley.

“The coaches at the other schools thought I had an unfair competitive advantage because of the intramural program I started at Hutch-Tech,” Coach Jones said during one of our interviews. He shared a lot of things with me that I didn’t know as a teen and probably wouldn’t have understood. There were so many layers – so many things happening at once surrounding the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team in plain sight and behind the scenes. The same is true for Coach Jones’ two immediate successors who I’ll keep anonymous at this time.

One of the hallmarks of Coach Jones’ tenure at Hutch-Tech was his intramural program. The program was for all the boys in the school so that everyone could get taste of competition and where a champion was crowned. More specifically, it allowed Coach Jones to scout the talent in each class. It wasn’t something he was doing for extra pay, but instead it was something for the students and for the school.

“Some of Jones’ players played angry,” a former player also from Coach Jones’ city and sectional championship team who I’ll call “Pep”, said jokingly. My interview with Pep might be my favorite of all of the interviews I’ve done simply because I could hear that he was having so much fun talking about his playing days. In any case, Coach Jones’ second group of detractors were surprisingly on some of his rosters.

Before getting to Hutch-Tech, the program looked like a utopia from the outside. My research though revealed that there were several conflicts and perpetually hurt feelings involving some of Coach Jones’ players. In some instances, there were personality conflicts. In other instances, there were players who felt they had to prove themselves repeatedly and in general felt unappreciated. Some players felt that they didn’t play enough, and others didn’t play at all though they were given roster spots.

The third group of detractors were outside of the team, but in the student body. The individual who stands out the most for this group is the classmate described above, but there were others. The reality in life is that there are winners and losers, and there usually isn’t enough of everything to go around. This particularly applies to a basketball team where a coach can realistically keep up to 18 players, while only being able to play 8-10 regularly.

In short, not every kid at my school who wanted a roster spot got one, and there are any number of reasons for that. I may write another teaser-piece just on the criteria Coach Jones presented on his ‘invite list’. That’s right, during his tenure, you couldn’t just come out for the basketball team, you had to be invited. This cut a lot of kids out of the picture from the start even before having a chance to show him they could dribble the ball, make baskets, play defense or even run one of his offenses.

Why does this all matter? Like the entire story, it was a sample of what was to come throughout the rest of my life in college and then in the adult world. For some of us who earned roster spots and submitted to his coaching, Coach was father figure, a mentor and a leader. Others on his teams felt like his whipping boys and even underappreciated. Other students didn’t feel like they were given a fair chance to play. Some didn’t like his fundamentals-based way of teaching the game. Some of the other coaches in our Yale Cup league thought he was cheating.

This is why interscholastic sports are good teachers going forward in life. Two of the things you learn about in addition to your sport, are people and leadership – neither of which are easy aspects to manage. As a leader, whether it’s a coach, a college professor, a clergyman or a supervisor, not everyone sees you the same way. Depending on our backgrounds, our values, our individual natures, and where our minds are in seasons of our lives, our experiences with that person will vary, and in many instances, vary greatly. It’s also true that because we may see a given person differently, our truths may be different.

Whether it was the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team, my research lab in graduate school, or now within the government agency I work in everyday, there were always individuals charged with leading larger groups or teams. Some people within those teams possess different levels and proficiencies at their crafts. All possess different levels of emotional intelligence. Some are better communicators than others, and some are just better team players than others.

“If I could go back, I would be just as demanding, but more understanding,” Coach Jones said to me several times during our talks. He knew that he drove his players hard and demanded a lot from us. He also concluded that he could’ve been a little more understanding of each player and what they were going through as each of us came from different homes and had different life struggles in our teens.

“If you look at that team that almost made it to Glens Falls, Coach Jones let that team do a lot, but that was all earned. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll let you shoot a three-pointer or a long jump shot outside the offense because I know that we’re playing good enough defense that we’re going to get a possession back,” said a former teammate named “Chris” who played under Coach Jones for four years. Chris was a captain on our team in my sophomore year and a true leader. Some of Coach Jones’ critics thought he was too restrictive and controlling of his teams, particularly on offense.

“When I went to college, I played Division III at the Coast Guard Academy. I didn’t play Varsity, but instead played on the equivalent of our JV squad. We played against a bunch of junior colleges and prep schools. I’ll say that I was able to shoot the ball a lot more,” Chris said. “I look back though, and I think if we were able to play defense like we did in high school, we would’ve been able to keep up with a bunch of those teams. So, shooting the ball wasn’t always the best policy.”

I’ll probably write another teaser-piece just talking about the program Coach Jones created at Hutch-Tech, but for now I’ll just say that if done right, while it can be rewarding, coaching isn’t easy. You must not only have to know your sport and its evolving nuances, but you must also assemble a team of players, develop them and get them to buy into a common goal. That isn’t easy as coaches must also play psychologist, in addition to a quasi-parent in some instances, especially for kids who don’t have fathers or who come from tumultuous homes.

This piece isn’t unique to Coach Jones. He was my coach. If you read my interview with Jason Rowe, Jason stated that while his Coach, Joe Cardinal, was highly scrutinized, his players loved him. Ironically, even though Coach Cardinal was highly criticized, his Bulls coincidentally made deep runs in the post-season play most years. The same is true for Coach Pat Monti who led the LaSalle basketball dynasty. During his 10-year run of dominance leading the LaSalle Explorers, there were numerous critiques about him and his program from the outside. Talking to him and his players on the inside was completely different though.

The first picture used for this post is the schedule for the 1989-90 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pepsi-Cola of Western New York used to create cardboard schedules for the area high school teams in addition to hosting the Al Pastor Memorial Basketball Tournament for a select number of schools. It was Coach Jones’ second season at Hutch-Tech. I was an eighth grader looking to go into high school and was learning about Coach and his teams through my brother Amahl who was a sophomore that year and his Hutch-Tech yearbooks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Niagara Falls basketball legend, Tim Winn, discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls basketball legend, Carlos Bradberry, discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls coaching legend, Pat Monti, discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Chris Herren discusses his journey, drug addiction, substance abuse and wellness

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4 Relaxing Hobbies You May Not Have Tried Yet!

Two of the key focuses of my blog are Athletics/Sports and Health/Wellness. Often times the hobbies we have can affect our qualities of life. Some of them can contribute to creating a much healthier quality of life. The following contributed post is entitled, 4 Relaxing Hobbies You May Not Have Tried Yet!

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You’ll know that if you want to look after your wellbeing, your exercise regime should be a top priority. With ample benefits for our physical and mental health, you won’t want to skip out on your get active fix! Sometimes, the gym can get a little boring, especially in the summer when it’s all stuffy and you just want to get outside! In addition to this, when you’ve had a hard week, pounding away on the treadmill doesn’t always feel so calming. If you’re looking for a new sporting hobby that promotes relaxation, you should consider some of these options.

Yoga

If you are serious about relaxation, yoga is just about the most calming exercise that you can do. You will learn about breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness to help calm your mind and focus on the present moment. Yoga is often practiced to relaxing music or accompanied with incense and candles to ease your senses. Yoga also provides so many excellent benefits for the body, from improving your core strength to your posture and flexibility. You can find a local yoga studio, or self-teach via online videos if you would prefer.

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Paddle Boarding

Activities which we can do on the water can be largely therapeutic. SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) is relaxing because you have to use lots of concentration and focus to balance and move across the water. Paddleboarding is another excellent activity to work on your core strength and tone your muscles. Be warned it’s not in fact as simple as it looks, but with a little practice, you could soon become a pro!

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Archery

Archery is an excellent sport to destress because, like yoga, it focuses on your ability to stay with the present moment, focus, and persist. Many people find that aiming and hitting a target with precision allows them to expel tension from their bodies and minds. You can play archery outdoors so you’ll be boosting your endorphins with both nature and the sunlight. When you are starting out, you will need to figure out what kind of equipment you will need. As a beginner, you’ll need to find the right kind of bow. Some people also like to add a bow stabilizer, to help them to perfect their archery skills.

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Hiking

Taking up hiking is an excellent way to relax and experience some beautiful places. You will destress, burn calories, and connect with nature. What’s more, hiking has a huge social aspect as you can hike with friends or join a local hikers group if you don’t have any takers! If you don’t have any worthy hiking destinations near you, why not find one further afield, hop on a train and make a day of it!

Sometimes it can be hard to know how to destress after a long week at work, but before you reach for the TV remote why not give one of these a try and see if you learn some new skills and relax in the process!

Five No-nonsense Habits to Prevent Football Injuries

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success and a key focus is Athletics/Sports. While “American Football” is king in the United States, the top sport in the rest of the world is “Football” also known as “Soccer”. Soccer requires a high level of fitness for the massive amounts of running needed to play the sport. As such, it’s important to know how to prevent common injuries. The following contributed post is entitled, Five No-nonsense Habits to Prevent Football Injuries.

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From pulled hamstrings to twisted ankles, sports injuries are a fact of life if you play football. Or are they? These tips will help you avoid minor niggles that take you out of the game for weeks at a time, as well as the more serious injuries that can put you on the bench for life.

Photo by Ben Weber on Unsplash

Get Checked Over By a Pro

If there’s an imbalance in your body—perhaps one of your hammies is tighter than the other, or you have more strength in one of your quads—you might be the last to know. We get so used to how it feels to be us that it can be difficult to identify imbalances in your own physique. A physiotherapy session at the start of the season is a great way to anticipate injuries you may be at risk of. Your physio will give you a program of exercises and practices designed to help you take steps to prevent what needn’t be inevitable.

Strreeeeaatch!

This is not a drill: a proper stretch after your game or training session is essential to preventing painful injuries. Everything from your tendons, to your muscles and ligaments, are susceptible to wear and tear. The more you stretch, the more flexible you become, the more likely you are to avoid sustaining serious injury when you change direction quickly or load weight on your joints.

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Strength Training

Strength training—surprise, surprise—makes you stronger, which gives you finer muscular control. You’ll also find it easier to balance and feel more agile, both of which are crucial to preventing injury. Football is a fast-paced, contact sport which can be extremely taxing on the body. Strength conditioning is a great way to prepare the body for the demands of the game by building strength and agility.

Stay Fit

Don’t fall into the trap of letting yourself off the hook during the off-season. Ideally, you should try to stay in top shape throughout the year, but this may not be reasonable for everyone. The important thing is not to let your fitness drop to a point where you’ll need a boot-camp to whip you back into shape at the start of the season. The offseason is a good time to tend to any minor injuries you may have sustained over the last few months. Now that the pressure is off, you can invest time in rest (or doing those physio exercises you’ve been putting off all season).

Don’t Play Injured

This is a tough one for many footie enthusiasts. Who wants to sit a game out because of a twinging ankle or a slightly tender calf muscle? While it might be tempting to ignore a minor injury, you could do yourself way more damage by carelessly taking to the field. Be patient. Do what your physio has instructed you to do. You’ll thank yourself in a few weeks’ time when you’re running back on, injury-free.

Whether you’re a top-flight player or a five-a-sider, injury can ruin the fun. These tips will help you prevent minor and major injuries during the season and beyond.

The Knowledge Of Life Sports Give Us

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and a key focus is Athletics/Sports. While we tend to think of sports in terms of the professional level, there is a lot of knowledge that the they teach people even if they don’t make it to that level. This knowledge transfers into the other areas of life. The following contributed post is entitled, The Knowledge Of Life Sports Give Us.

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Little did you know it, but when you were involved in a sport you were being taught life lessons. Whether you were a football player, baseball player, soccer player or even some kind of racing driver, you were in the school of harsh lessons and personal growth. When we’re young we don’t take it that seriously but as we grow older we see some of the similarities in sport to the thing we go through in life. A double play can be screwed up in a tight baseball game, because someone who was thought to be mentally tough ended up choking under the pressure. The ball might have slipped out of their hand or they perhaps lost their focus. These are things that happen in life to us all but in very different ways. Not folding under pressure at key moments in your life and being mentally ready for hard or intense times is just part and parcel of the lessons we learn.

The style of outlook

All of us in life, carry some kind of style. No we’re not talking about fashion or perhaps the way you walk. We carry a style in life of our approach to situations, we carry a carefree or a cautious mindset wherever we go. In certain situations the people who will think strategically will end up thinking further than those around them. For example, you are trying to out a mortgage. Many banks will actually offer smaller rates for a short term contract that then suddenly rises in price. In sports we learn to not think about how much energy we might have at the beginning of the game, but how much we’ll have at the end of it. Thus our training and our mindset are focussed on the long term goal. Someone with this kind of mentality would rather take a long term mortgage with smaller rates or a short term loan with high rates. This kind of outlook maintains financial independence and self-reliance.

Reading other people

Without a doubt the psychological aspect of sports is coming more and more to the fore. We are now seeing that the most successful players in the world, always engage in some kind of psychological battles with their opponents. Whether it’s Sebastian Vettel from F1, Tiger Woods from golf or Christiana Ronaldo from soccer, they all do it. If you are very in tune with sports you will be able to see which team is going to win even before they play against each other. You can use this knowledge of reading other people to earn a living when you work with a company like payperhead247.com. They can help you set up a business in which you can make money from games and the sport you yourself love and watch. Many other people just like you are know about the teams in depth will also be able to have a chance at putting their money where their mouth is.

Sport always teaches us things we don’t really know about until we are older. Things like reading people and using that to help us in life, or approaching challenges with a long term mindset for example.

4 Things That Make Your Gym Business Great

Three of the focuses of my blog are Athletics/Sports, Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. If run correctly, gym businesses can be very lucrative. There are keys to a great gym business. The following contributed post is entitled, 4 Things That Make Your Gym Business Great.

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There are almost 40,000 gyms, health clubs and fitness centers in the U.S. While the fitness industry remains a profitable sector, it is also clear that as a new gym owner, you will have to face a lot of competition to attract and keep your customers. Price plays a significant role in their decision; however, customers are willing to pay more if they find the right gym. The quality justifies the cost of membership. A handy rule of thumb, for new gym owners, is to consider what local fitness enthusiasts expect. Giving your gym business a competitive edge is all about finding the additions that make it go the extra mile for your audience.

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#1. Your clients expect great equipment at all times

If you’ve joined a gym in the past, you’ve probably identified the first complaint of every fitness enthusiast; the equipment. The main reason why people choose to work out at the gym and not at home is that they want to train on specialist machines. A gym club that can only provide standard equipment such as treadmills or dumbbell sets fails to keep customers entertained. Offering a variety of choice to support all training routines and adding even custom made accessories to help people with disabilities to use the machine – if you are wondering how to adjust your equipment, you can view more here about accessories. You also need a partner to order parts when your equipment breaks.

#2. A friendly personal coach can make all the difference in the world

Personal trainers make a great deal of difference for new gym goers. However, you want PTs who can sympathize with the different health and self-confidence issues of their clients. Someone who is struggling with weight doesn’t want to feel judged by their trainer. Indeed, not everyone is a fitness junkie, and working with a coach such as Drew Manning here who shows understanding and patience can help them to work out confidently and focus on improving their health.

Find a PT who understands people

#3. Yes, you need an individual decor

When was the last time you stepped in a gym studio and admired the interior decor? If you can’t remember, it’s probably because most gyms lack personalization. They feel like a giant sweating box, which is never appealing to customers. Think of your gym as something that could feel as comfortable and welcoming as a home for your audience. Add art prints, colorful accessories – yes, your gym needs a rest area with cushions – and personal touches.

#4. A place where everyone can feel safe

Everyone is different, but everyone deserves to feel safe and respected. Make it your mission to create a friendly environment for people of different generations, genders, religion, nationality, sexuality, and fitness levels. Depending on their faith, some people might feel more comfortable in a same-gender class, for instance. Others might feel self-aware practicing in an open space. Understanding and addressing those differences can create a place of tolerance and respect for all – because the last thing somebody wants when they work out is to feel threatened by other gym goers.

Running a profitable gym business is a delicate art. Your offering needs to match your audience’s expectations, both in terms of equipment, services, but also emotional value. A welcoming and respectful gym is a strong pillar of a united community

Should We Compare The Sports Heroes Of Today To The Ones Of Yesteryear?

A key focus of my blog is Athletics and Sports. People debate sports all the time. What’s particularly compelling is the comparison of heroes/players from different eras. While great points are made on both sides, these comparisons of eras are typically impossible to make and inconclusive due to numerous factors. The following contributed post is entitled, Should We Compare The Sports Heroes Of Today To The Ones Of Yesteryear?

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They just don’t make them like they used to, do they? Or is this statement completely irrelevant in the modern age? In terms of sports, we always look to the Muhammad Alis, Johnny Unitas’, and Magic Johnsons of the world, and think that the modern sports hero cannot hold a torch to them. But is it even fair for us to compare the sports heroes of today to the ones of yesteryear? Or do we just have a romanticized view of sport back in the olden days? In fact, is it even fair to compare the two? Are the modern sports heroes under so much more pressure, and are they more physically adroit than the older champions?

The Trials And Tribulations
You can look at it from two perspectives: the social media struggle, and the political one. You can look at the modern sports hero fighting a torrent of social media abuse, which is part and parcel of any game. But even if you look at the heroes of yesteryear, like Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry, there was a different sort of struggle. Naturally, there was a major political struggle back in the heyday of sports in the 1960s and 1970s, which is still, in some areas, carrying through to today. Especially when you look at the topic of transgender issues in sport and even the topic of religion can bring up a whole plethora of debate. Whether it’s the major NFL stars that are observing Ramadan, or younger players like Parker Sniatynski and their Christian beliefs, the modern sports hero has their battles on more than just the playing field. The modern sports hero, it can be argued, have fewer issues to contend with because we supposedly live in a more tolerant world. But it all depends on who you ask! There is still an inherent amount of political struggle in any sport.

The Physical Strength
This depends on the game. While there is a steady increment of records being broken in pretty much every sport with every passing year, can you even compare the physical prowess of a modern football player to the heroes of the 50s and 60s? Training regimes are tougher, and there’s more science behind it, but likewise, you can still argue that the old training methods are the best. There’s a reason why many bodybuilders stick to the classic approaches pioneered by people like Reg Park. These days, from the perspective of an outsider, the modern approach to building muscle is all about quick fixes and cutting corners, when physical strength is really all about the classic methods. With this device, you can also argue that the modern sports star has a lot more comfort in their lives. This could have a major bearing on how they play the game.

The Evolving Of The Game
Most may think that there hasn’t been much change to the game, regardless of the surroundings. But from the Olympics to football and everything in between, there has been a major period of evolving. Because any athlete has to work harder to break the previous records, this means that the game has to change with the times. The game can become harder, not necessary by the rules changing, but by the people playing the game becoming a higher caliber. As the game evolves it’s blatantly unfair to make comparisons to those that came before. The game can change, but only by the stimuli that surrounds it. The rules remain the same, but the players will change.

The Inspiration Of The Old Guard
The reasons that these big names are considered legends, because they are pioneers. As such, we need to hold these members of the old guard in high regard. And when we look to our heroes, and those that triumphed over adversity or limiting circumstances, we can’t help but feel inspired, but also feel that we have got a lot more to help us become better at the game. The sportspeople of yesteryear had to overcome trial-and-error, whereas we can have it put on a plate as to the right workout plan, nutritional guidelines, and so on. We just have to stick to them. But we need to make an impact on the game in a different way. It’s about learning that mental toughness that those heroes overcame. As such, while it may be unfair to compare the sports heroes of today to those of yesteryear, in terms of physical prowess or the game itself, most definitely, the people that came before us have had it more difficult.

Amahl Dunbar discusses his new Helmet Tubing Impact System (HTIS) invention

While one of the purposes for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is the pursuit of new knowledge, a second purpose is to use that knowledge to create new innovations and products to improve our lives. Likewise, while one of the goals of my blog is advocacy of STEM awareness, a second goal is to use my platform to give exposure to others and their own projects. The following interview – the first of its kind on my blog accomplishes both goals, and it aligns with one of the principles of my blog which I haven’t discussed much up to this point; Creative Thought. Creative Thought is a key component of all the innovations that have emerged from the STEM fields that have changed the world.

Over the past couple of years, inventor Amahl Dunbar has worked on an invention to increase the safety of football helmets; the “Helmet Tubing Impact System” (HTIS). He recently agreed to the following interview to give the world a glimpse of the HTIS, to introduce his new idea, and his goals for it going forward. The pictures used in this post of the HTIS attached to football helmets were graciously shared by Amahl Dunbar himself.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Amahl. Thank you for agreeing to talk about your new system for making football helmets more protective. As my brother, I know who you are and what you’ve been doing. For the readers though, talk a little bit about your background. Haven’t you always been a ‘design and build’ type of guy?

Amahl Dunbar: Yes. Around the time I was in the third or fourth grade, I enjoyed using hand-held tools to disassemble and re-assemble my toys. My “Transformers” toys were very complex in terms of design. They were an endless puzzle of hinge, sliding, and ball joints. Usually I’d have everything reassembled before our mother got home from work. In parallel with those experiences, I began to do the same process with my bikes, though when it came to bikes, the stakes were higher because a bike could fall apart while in motion. Over all, I have more years of experience learning the visual arts versus engineering or product development.

Anwar: At Hutch-Tech High School, didn’t you major in Architecture?

Amahl: Yes, I had dreams of an office-oriented career. Architecture is more of a ‘design studio’ career. During high school my understanding of Architecture was limited. I thought it was just good to design. Years later, I learned the best forms of Architecture involved designing and customizing around the lifestyle of the occupants.

Anwar: How did you come up with the idea for the HTIS?

Amahl: The idea for this invention came to me while watching an NFL game during the 2014 or 2015 season. A highly valued player for the Buffalo Bills took a bad helmet-to-helmet collision. As I watched this player writhing in pain, it occurred to me that the standard helmet is as much a weapon as it is a system of protection. Also, I thought the sound of a helmet to helmet hit may be damaging to players as well. Imagine being inside of a large speaker when it receives sudden microphone feedback or static. The sound would be jarring, disorienting, and unpleasant.

Anwar: What makes your system unique from what’s currently on the market?

Amahl: The Helmet Tubing Impact System (HTIS) is lighter than similar exterior helmet products. It distributes forces ‘longitudinally’ versus absorbing or muffling direct strikes. The tubes are transparent, so team colors and logos stay visible.

Anwar: Are you referring to something like the “Gazoo” helmet shell that the Buffalo Bills’ Mark Kelso used the wear?

Amahl: The Gazoo was never brought to the mainstream market, which speaks to its effectiveness. Most products that attach to the exterior of helmets are modeled after boxing head gear. From that perspective, players are still receiving a muffled version of helmet strikes. Those products are made of foam and absorb impacts without dispersing the forces. The HTIS distributes forces cylindrically and longitudinally.

Anwar: We see a lot of head and brain-related injuries in American football. Is your new system designed to prevent paralysis? Concussions? Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

Amahl: Those conditioned athletes won’t escape the wear & tear of American Football. The HTIS will lower the amount force in head impacts over years of practice and play for players. Specialists in those fields have found that the repetitive and cumulative number of impacts is what hurts players over the long-term.

Anwar: Now I imagine at this point, you’ve legally protected your system, you’re being very prudent in terms of whom you’re sharing your data with. In terms of your initial findings for the HTIS, what have you found thus far in terms of its ability to mitigate the force of collisions? Which test have you used to generate your data?

Amahl: As of now I do have a patent on the HTIS. I used the “Weighted Swing Test”. This test shows that the HTIS lowers impacts forces by an average of 70 – 73%. Again, the force of helmet strikes is distributed over the soft, cylindrical, hollow, plastic surface area of the tubes. The HTIS is designed to divide the linear and rotational transfer of impact forces.

Anwar: What are your plans for this going forward?

Amahl: In the near future, I’m looking to form an LLC for production and sales of the product to individual customers, teams, and leagues. I’m open to licensing or selling the patent, if a fair offer is presented.

Anwar: If anyone wants to directly reach out to you regarding the HTIS, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Amahl: If anyone would like to contact me for sales or to purchase the patent, contact me at amahldunbar@gmail.com

Anwar: Well thank you, Amahl, for sharing your exciting project. Do you have any other comment?

Amahl: Yes. The HTIS has the best chance for success of them all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my new YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Breakthroughs In Brain Injuries

Three key focuses of my blog are Athletics/Sports, Health/Wellness, and Technology. An area of high interest particularly in American Football is brain injuries. The protection efforts to protect against brain injuries are continuously unfolding. The following contributed post is entitled, Breakthroughs In Brain Injuries.

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Image Courtesy Of Jesse Orrico

It is not an uncommon fact that more and more people are suffering severe brain injuries these days. This is especially true in contact sports such as football. It has been reported that between 1.7 to 3 million sports-related concussions occur each year. That is a staggering number with severe consequences to the mental well-being of human beings.
There is a movement around youth football organizations to put an end to tackling. The horrific stories that have come from the National Football League has really raised many red flags on why contact like this is allowed with such hazardous consequences.

One of the biggest problems many parents will face with their children playing youth sports will be concussions. It is a scary thought for parents to think of the seriousness of the injury, but also the medical expenses that may follow depending on the severity of the injury. It is crucial for parents to know their legal rights as well as what treatment or preventative options are currently in the works.

Legal Rights
A rare inside look into the legal system and submitting insurance claims and making sure that you are being taken care of fairly can be found at Pennsylvania Workers Comp. This book provides insight to make sure that you and your loved one are being well taken care of in your scariest of moments.

You can also find information about how serious the National Football League is starting to take in regard to the number of concussions occurring each week. Traumatic Brain Injuries is something that cannot be ignored, and parents need to know their rights to medical attention. Real life tragedies of NFL players can be found here as well as the financial responsibilities the NFL has recently taken on to settle disputes.

Fortunately, the world of Science and Technology has allowed researchers and scientists the ability to delve deeper into studying the brain and coming up with ways to help diminish this problem. However, there is still much work to be done.

Current Research
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has a mission of pursuing new knowledge and then use that knowledge to invent new mechanisms to improve our lives. This has been vital in the brain injury world. One particular study has been looking at the impact of American football helmets. One invention currently in the works is a Helmet Impact Tubing System. The goal is to lower the number of head force impacts over years of use. However, it is proven that the repetitive hits that players take day to day and week to week are what eventually takes its toll on the brain.

Another study being done is looking at if stem cells can help to repair traumatic brain injuries. This clinical trial involves using bone marrow-derived stem cells are repair agents. Traumatic Brain Stem Cell Repair is trying to find at least of an invasive measure to work on the brain and replace those damaged cells. It is still in the early stages, but in the world of Science and Technology, this could potentially be a massive breakthrough in helping to save millions of lives every year.

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part two

“Me, Jody, Shino and Fat Jack were all inseparable – we were always together. I wanted to see them do as well as, or better, than me or anybody else.”

This is the conclusion of my two-part interview with Niagara Falls LaSalle High School basketball legend, Carlos Bradberry. In part one, Carlos discussed his background, how he started playing basketball, and how he became one of the legendary point guards in the LaSalle basketball dynasty. In part two we talk about his senior year at LaSalle where he led the Explorers to Glens Falls, his college career, and then life after basketball.

The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Section VI basketball, carefully assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Section V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Carlos himself, and his Head Coach at LaSalle Senior High School, Pat Monti. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Anwar Dunbar: After the season-ending loss to Greece-Athena your junior season, what was your mentality going into your senior year? Was it, ‘Glens Falls or bust?’

Carlos Bradberry: Yes, it was Glens Falls or bust. There was no other thought in our minds besides getting to Glens Falls. We weren’t thinking about local teams. Our biggest rival was Niagara Falls Senior High School, and everybody thought it was a huge game. It wasn’t for us at that time. Our whole goal was Glens Falls from day one.

AD: Well, I recall you guys having one shocker against Kenmore West in league play.

CB: It was almost two. They played us really close in the sectionals too. They were a good team. They had Rob Fitchlee, Shawn Bryan and Joe Thomas – they were stacked. I think we played them three times that year, and I’d say that all three games were close and none of them were blow outs. They were really good!

AD: Well you know that was the big story and it was like, ‘LaSalle lost!’ So, it sounds like they were legitimately talented, and you guys didn’t just overlook them.

CB: No. They were loaded. They would’ve gone to Glens Falls almost any other year. They ended our win streak. St. Joe’s had a ‘monster’ win streak of their own with Eric Eberz and Jeff Muszynski. Kenmore West ended theirs as well – both in the same year. That was Dick Harvey’s team.

AD: I was watching the 1993 Class B-1 sectional final between Amherst and Kenmore East once again at Alumni Arena. Towards the end of that game, you guys walked in as a group and sat right in front of me. I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh boy. LaSalle is here!’ Just as that game was ending, you got up in a business-like fashion and went on to defeat Hamburg and the rest is history.

So, your team beat Kenmore West in the Class A semifinal 61-51 and beat Hamburg 61-42 in the Class A final to win Section VI yet again. Did you feel confident matching up with Section V’s McQuaid? That game was at Rochester War Memorial Arena. Aside from losing Shino Ellis and Willie Cole, you basically returned with the same core group with the addition of Tim Winn.

CB: I’d say confident, but for me leery. My last memory of McQuaid was going out there and getting ‘stomped’ a few years earlier. I wondered how good these guys were and I knew that they had a big guy. I think his name was Jay Wandtke or something like that and he was 6’6” or 6’7”. Obviously, he wasn’t on John Wallace’s level, but I was thinking they had a big guy and I wondered how we were going to match up.

AD: So, it did end up being a close game. The Buffalo News reported that Todd hit a last second late shot and –.

CB: Yes. Todd hit a huge shot from the elbow to give us the 46-45 win.

AD: And you guys advanced to the Final Four in Glens Falls where you matched up with Hempstead from Long Island. You lost a close game to them, 70-67. What was it like getting there? Was it, ‘We’re here,’ and you were happy to just do that or –.

CB: No, we wanted to win. It was huge for us to get there, but as soon as we won that McQuaid game, our focus was, ‘Man you know what, let’s go down there and win this thing!’ I’d never heard of Hempstead before, but I’d always heard about how good Mount Vernon was. Our mentality was to go down there and beat Mount Vernon or whomever we were going to play. All of us were beyond happy to get to Glens Falls, but we weren’t settling for that.

AD: Obviously you want to win the whole thing, but the way it ended, were you satisfied with your senior season?

CB: I was satisfied, but I hate to lose so that last game wore on me for a long time. I probably sat there for a week or two and thought of every play I could’ve done differently. I still remember it to this day. We lost by three points and I missed five or six free throws. I said to myself, ‘If I’d made those six free throws, we would have won the game!’

For me it was bitter-sweet because we got there and showed well, but I thought we could have gone one step further. What made it worse was, I think Hempstead either won or had a very close game with Mount Vernon. I thought we could’ve been the state champs if I’d played a little bit better.

AD: Did Hempstead play you a particular way?

CB: I think we just came out and got into a hole. I think we feared their size and played zone against them. We didn’t really think they could shoot it, but they came out and shot it in the first half. We eventually went to our ‘pressure’ defense and they started turning the ball over left and right. Looking at them warmup, how athletic they were, and how quick they looked, that was one team I can say that I was intimidated by. But man, once we started playing and we got through that lull where they jumped on us, I thought from that point we could win. I thought they had some Division I players and some good guards, but I thought as a team we were better.

AD: Before we move on, how did Coach Monti pick his captains? Was it his best two players? Was it his most senior players?

CB: I’m pretty sure it was always upperclassmen. It wasn’t a team vote or anything. In my freshman year I want to say that it was Milo Small and Duke Davis, who were seniors. Sophomore year it probably fell to Modie, Scotty Rose and my brother. It was always your junior and senior guys who’d been through it. In my junior year I was a Co-Captain with Shino.

AD: Who was Co-Captain with you in your senior year?

CB: I believe it was myself, Chris Frank and maybe Curtis Ralands.

AD: When we played you guys in the 1991 Festival of Lights Tournament, I remember you consistently ‘slashing’ to the basket. What was your game like by the time you graduated from LaSalle?

CB: I spent a lot of time over the summer shooting and I came back as a ‘respectable’ three-point shooter. I was hitting a couple of threes every game, so I was mixing it in more than my junior year when I was just getting to the basket. I knew for me I wanted to play at the college level. It was funny because we would go down to the YMCA and we used to have these unbelievable runs on Saturdays with guys who were in their 30s and 40s. I’d go to the basket every play and they would just ‘hammer’ me. They’d say, ‘Listen, you’re not going to be able to get to the basket on everybody! You’re going to have to learn how to shoot!’ Those guys had a point and it made you get in the gym and work on your jump shot.

AD: Do you remember what your best game was?

CB: One of the games that sticks out was against Lockport. It was probably my junior year. We were down 10-12 points in the third or fourth quarter of a sectional game. We were going to lose and that was huge because we hadn’t lost a game up to that point. They had a guy on their team named Calvin Shellman who was really good. I scored 17 of out of 30 points in the fourth quarter to help us come back and beat them. That’s probably the game that sticks out to me in high school, just off the top of my head.

Also, a game against Niagara Falls in my sophomore year sticks out. Modie had an ankle injury and no one thought we could win without him. I was scared out of my mind because Modie was our guy. I played shooting guard that season, but I had to play point guard in that game. It was a low scoring, tight game. I went to the free throw line with zero seconds on the clock and hit two free throws with all the Niagara Falls High School fans lined up under the basket to win the game. It was crazy because they stormed the court and thought they won the game. Then the court had to be cleared and I had to shoot two free throws with no one else on the court.

AD: Based upon the way that the players were brought up and the way Coach Monti ran the team, it sounds like your teams had good ‘chemistry’ together, and that you guys were a pretty tight group.

CB: The majority of us were always together doing something. It’s funny now because you see some kids and teams that are really disconnected. We were sort of like a family. There were always four guys over my house, or I was always over someone else’s house – nine out of your 11 guys were doing something together.

AD: Tim said that he was over at your place playing video games regularly. It’s strange. I don’t know if it’s organic, but on some teams if no one explains it to you, you don’t realize that chemistry off the court is important as well.

CB: It’s huge! It makes you trust people. It makes you like people more. It makes you want to make something happen for that next guy and they become more than just some guy you’re playing basketball with for two hours a day. They’re almost like you brother or your cousin. Me, Jody, Shino and Fat Jack were all inseparable – we were always together. I wanted to see them do as well as, or better, than me or anybody else.

AD: You said it was yourself, Jody, Shino and who else?

CB: It was me, Jody, and Fat Jack – Tim. (“Fat Jack” as we called him).

AD: Why did you guys call him Fat Jack?

CB: Oh, that’s his name. Everybody knows him as Fat Jack. If somebody calls him Tim, it’s rare. If you’re around Niagara Falls or Buffalo, he’s Fat Jack. That’s been his name since he was younger which was funny because he was the skinniest kid growing up. But those were the guys. Obviously, Shino is a year older than me, so he graduated a year earlier; and Curtis, obviously. That was our other guy. It was crazy how we were all close.

AD: Was there anyone you looked particularly forward to playing against?

CB: Definitely, Calvin Shellman. He was younger than me by a year and played at Lockport, but he was amazing. I don’t know if you remember Anthony Scott from Grand Island. He went on to play football at the University at Buffalo (UB). He was the biggest trash talker in Western New York, so I looked forward to playing against him. We were friends, but those were two of the guys who I looked forward to playing against.

Eric Eberz, from St. Joe’s, was a guy I looked forward to playing against, but never got to play against him in high school. We used to play on some ‘travel’ teams together, and we always used to talk about who was better between St. Joe’s and LaSalle. However, we never got a chance to play each other. So probably, it was those three guys.

AD: Now the Buffalo News captured how fierce the Niagara Falls High School-LaSalle rivalry was and your team owned it for the most part. I read in one of the clippings that at one point a fight broke out. What was the most surprising thing you saw when you played at LaSalle? Was it the fight? Was is someone getting cut? Was it playing against John Wallace? Was it something else?

CB: The rivalry with Niagara Falls was different than anything. A lot of things stuck out. You had hundreds of people outside the gym who couldn’t get in. You had guys looking through windows to try to watch games. That’s something you didn’t see every day around Western New York. Even though we had good crowds, that game was just different. To us it was crazy because we felt like we were never going to lose to Niagara Falls High School.

We had the confidence. We knew the guys and we played against them every day, so we knew we were the better team; but when you got into that environment it was just nuts. It was people on top of people. People stand on the baseline, and it sort of made a lot of the games ugly. We probably didn’t play some our best ‘LaSalle’ games, because at that point you hear everybody in the town screaming and yelling your name. and everyone was trying to make a name for themselves. That’s what sticks out – those Niagara Falls High School games for sure.

AD: Does that mean that during those games, you guys ‘freelanced’ a little bit more and broke from the structure?

CB: Yeah, and I’m sure that Coach Monti would agree. I don’t think he was happy with some of those games. Some of them were ugly and they were the one game out of the year where we didn’t follow the game plan to a ‘T’. The one we played during my sophomore year – that’s when we had Duke and Milo. Niagara Falls High School complained that we always played in our home gym just because it was so much bigger and could accommodate more fans. And they had a right to complain. Their coach at the time kept complaining and we finally played at Niagara Falls High School which is another one of the more meaningful games that sticks out.

We went there, and this was a team with Willie Cauley, who was unbelievably talented. We walked into their gym – the little ‘box’ that they had, and it was supposed to be a close game. We ended up beating them by 40 points. We just ran our offense to the T – everything we did was perfect and after that, they never asked to play there again. It was crazy.

AD: Coach Monti did say that their teams were bigger and more talented, but you guys still owned the rivalry/series.

CB: They were always bigger and had a few better athletes. Willie Cauley was on their team all our years and he was the best player on the court talent-wise every year. It was amazing.

AD: What kind of student were you when you were at LaSalle? It sounds like Coach Monti kept a tight rein on how his players performed in the classroom.

CB: There were progress reports every week that you had to turn in – even when it wasn’t basketball season.

AD: Really? Wow.

CB: You had to be on top of your grades and it wasn’t just your 65s, getting by and passing classes – it was basically to your ability. If you were a 70s kid, Coach Monti expected you to get 70s. If you were an 80s kid, he expected you to get 80s. I was an ‘80s kid’ in high school. I know Jody was a 90s kid and if he had brought in 80s, Coach Monti probably wouldn’t have been happy – do you know what I mean? There wasn’t one grade that everyone had to get. He knew what kids were capable of and that’s what he expected you to get.

AD: When did the colleges start recruiting you?

CB: I was a ‘late bloomer’ – it was the end of my junior year and really it coincided with the start of AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball. Mickey Walker used to run “Upstate Basketball” which was basically an AAU team. He took me on my first few tournaments going from my junior to my senior year. That’s when I really started to get interest from some schools.

I wasn’t heavily recruited. I had around seven interested schools. Most of them were from going out just that little time in the summer with Mickey. I know Fat Jack (Tim Winn) ended up playing later for him as AAU kept getting bigger and bigger. So basically, it was more the middle of eleventh grade.

AD: Obviously, one of them was Niagara University. I remember going to Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium your freshman year and seeing you play against the University at Buffalo. Were there other Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) schools interested in you?

CB: Locally it was Canisius College, where John Beilein coached, that showed me the most interest from day one. St. Bonaventure recruited me, but they didn’t make me an offer, and that’s where I wanted to go locally. I probably wasn’t an Atlantic 10 Conference-level kid, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I was more of a MAAC- level kid, which included both Niagara University and Canisius College. There were some teams from outside the MAAC like Marist and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Canisius and Marist were probably the earliest in terms of recruiting me.

AD: How did you end up deciding on Niagara University?

CB: This is a great story as well. I loved Canisius, Coach Beilein and Coach McDonald who is now a local Head Coach at Daemen College, but I was young, and I was waiting for that big school to come, which was never coming. It was getting late, and Canisius had been recruiting me for my whole eleventh and twelfth grade years and I think it was around the time of the Final Four.

I talked to another one of the coaches and he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got another guy on hold for the whole year. You’re our No. 1 guy,’ but they wanted me to give them a commitment and it was halftime of that Final Four game and I kept going back and forth on them. I called Coach McDonald after the Final Four game the next day because I was going to go to Canisius. I told them, ‘Hey, how is everything going?’ He said, ‘We really didn’t think we were going to hear from you, so we signed another point guard.’ At that point they said, ‘Your offer is still here. We want you here,’ but then I called Niagara a minute later and just told them I was coming there.

And the other thing – the sticking point for me, which was just being young and dumb, was that Canisius had a good senior point guard that I knew I was going to have to play behind named Dana “Binky” Johnson. Coach Beilein let you know, ‘You’re going to come in and you’re going to learn as a freshman. You’re going to play under him, but we’re going to groom you to be our next point guard!’ Niagara University had just lost their point guard – a kid named Lloyd Walker and they told me, ‘Hey, you can come here and start right away!’

So that’s where I was torn. As a young kid all you want to hear is that you’re going to go to a college and start right away. So, while my heart sort of knew that Canisius was the right place and I loved Canisius, Niagara came into the picture later. With a coach coming and telling me that I would start my freshman year – I just went with it.

It was funny because guys like Coach Monti – he wouldn’t tell me what to do, but he told me, ‘Hey I think Canisius is a good fit for you.’ My Dad also said Canisius was a great fit and I thought it was a great fit too. It’s just that when you’re a kid turning 18 years old, you just want to play, and you don’t think about all the other stuff involved. I ended up leaving Niagara, but I loved the time that I was there and the guys I played with were great. I don’t regret anything about the way that it worked.

AD: Where did you go after you left Niagara?

CB: I went to the University of New Hampshire which was in the “American East Conference” back then. I transferred there halfway through my sophomore season.

AD: Well, hey man, after talking to Jason Rowe and Tim Winn, it sounds like there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things to consider when kids are getting recruited. Playing time was one thing you described as important, in addition to how much the schools seem to want you, while also recruiting other players at your position.

CB: Yes, it’s confusing especially for a kid – you sort of want someone to make that decision for you. My Dad told me what he wanted, but he said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to make this decision on your own! I’ll tell you what I think, but you’ve got to make your own decision!’ Sometimes when you’re 17 and 18, you’re not going to make the right decision.

AD: When you went to New Hampshire, you were obviously with another coaching staff. Were there major differences in playing at New Hampshire versus playing at Niagara?

CB: Oh yeah! It was just a whole different approach. I’m not saying one was better than the other, but it was two different systems. One was ‘night’ and one was ‘day’. It’s tough because I had a to sit out a year and when you sit out, you get ‘rusty’ because you don’t really play. You practice, but you don’t play in games for a whole year, and then you come in and you’re in a whole different system. It was a different role than I ever had to play before when I ended up at New Hampshire.

AD: Were you playing the ‘point guard’ position, or did you slide over to ‘shooting guard’?

CB: I played the point guard position at both Niagara and New Hampshire. At Niagara you’re young and dumb. You’re playing in front of your hometown and friends are telling you stuff. At Niagara I had a ‘long leash’ as a freshman and as a sophomore, but maybe I wasn’t doing as well as people thought I was as I wasn’t putting the numbers up. I thought I could and should be doing more so I wound up leaving and going to New Hampshire where the coach was more of a ‘You’re going to be more of a guy to set up our offense and get us into this spot,’’ -type of guy. I learned how to play it in two years and I don’t regret going there either.

AD: Did you guy’s make the Men’s NCAA Tournament any of those years?

CB: No. At Niagara University we were young. We would have been good if everyone had stayed. In my freshman year, we brought in seven freshman which was nuts. Three or four them ended up starting. I think if we could have stayed together until our junior year, we would’ve had a special group at Niagara, but four of the seven ended up leaving. At New Hampshire we just weren’t a very good team. The America East was just a really tough conference and we were a few games under 0.500, so we never got the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.

AD: Who was in that conference?

CB: Vermont, Boston University, Delaware, Drexel – all those guys. Hofstra had the “Speedy” Claxton kid who went to the NBA. The conference was just tough. Boston University had the Joey Beard kid who had just transferred from Duke and –.

AD: Didn’t Drexel have Malik Rose at that time?

CB: Yep. Malik Rose was Drexel’s big man and he was a ‘monster’, but yes, it was tough conference.

AD: Well, you know coincidentally, the first time I ever saw Malik Rose play was the opening round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament when Drexel matched up against John Wallace’s Syracuse team. What did you major in?

CB: Social Work.

AD: Did you have any aspirations of playing professional basketball the way Tim Winn and Jason Rowe did?

CB: No, I had no aspirations to play overseas at all. Nothing interested me about going to another country to play ball.

AD: Is Social Work what you got into once you graduated?

CB: No, I came back and started working in the school system in the Department of Special Education. Unless you get a Master’s Degree, you’re not making too much money in Social Work. My wife is also in the school system and it’s good for our family – to work for the school district and to have our kids come through it. We always have an eye on them and it’s been great.

AD: Okay, well I guess this is a good transition into your kids. We’re Facebook friends now and it looks like your son is following in your footsteps. Did you have expectations for him and put the ball in his hands as a baby? How did he start playing?

CB: So, Jalen is my middle child and he’s a ‘basketball nut’. He played in his first tournament at six years old, and he’s been playing ever since. I’ve got a daughter who is older. She was never really into sports. My younger son never really got into it. My things is that you can’t make kids do something or put them in something they don’t really want to do. My middle one just picked up on it early and loved it.

AD: I saw the video footage of you working him out, and I saw that you took him out to Syracuse for a camp I believe. Are you ‘hands off’ father, or are you ‘hands on’ and coaching him all the time?

CB: Well (laughing), I had an AAU team for years and I had the chance to coach a lot of really good kids who are mostly now juniors and sophomores in high school. I started the team probably when our kids were around fifth grade and I coached a group of really good kids from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. You know what, when you get to a certain point, you’ve got to let go of coaching your own kid, being the Head Coach and doing the whole thing.

My goal was to let that go once he became a freshman which was last year and have him go play for a bigger program that’s not a local program and not me coaching him. So, this last year he started playing with the “Albany City Rocks” which is our only Nike-sponsored team in the state other than teams in New York City. So, he started playing with those guys.

AD: And it looks like Jalen is playing for Niagara Falls High School?

CB: Yes. Niagara-Catholic closed, so now he’s playing at Niagara Falls High School.

AD: Does he know how good you were? Has he heard the legends of Coach Pat Monti, the LaSalle Explorers, Eric Gore, Michael Starks and the ten-year dynasty?

CB: He hears about it and I wouldn’t say that I’m hands off. We were in the gym just before you called. I’ll get him in and do his workouts. I’m basically his ‘rebounding machine’ – I’ll run around and chase his balls for him. I’ll do that, but other than that, at this point you want to get him around other people. He’s older and it’s time for me to turn it over to somebody else.

AD: On Monday, I saw you say that you had a game. Was that him playing or do you still play?

CB: For Niagara Falls High School, I’m going to be an assistant coach. A couple of kids are coming from Jalen’s old school and it’s good that we got them in a league so that they can start to mix in with the other players and get a feel for each other. Hopefully when November comes, everybody will know each other a little bit better. I was previously an Assistant Coach at Niagara Falls High School and I took a couple of years off when Jalen started middle school.

AD: Okay, Carlos, we’re almost done. I can see from Facebook that you still literally eat, sleep and breathe the game, and I see you frequently posting about today’s players, their skill level, and what kids don’t know how to do. How has the game changed since the early 1990s when we were out there playing? Is the game more about shooting like Steph Curry and the Warriors? What are you seeing? Are the kids less tough?

CB: It’s funny, because I get into arguments with guys about this because I say that I know that if I was in high school right now, with the same skill level I had in high school, I would’ve never been a Division I player today. These kids are so skilled at a young age now that it’s unbelievable. So, when I say that to the older guys and they start talking about Jordan and Bird – yeah, pros are pros – pros are going to be unbelievable – they’re all skilled and they’re all great.

I tell guys that, to me, this generation is so much more skilled than ours. Now the flipside, and I’ll probably get a knock for this, I think our generation was intellectually more ahead of these guys. I think so much time gets spent today on skill work and one-on-one training that it doesn’t translate into ‘team’ basketball. You’re individually always working with a trainer, working on your handle, and working on your shot. You’re working on all of these individual skills, whereas back in the day we were just playing, so we just learned how to play the game a little bit better.

So, I think they’re more skilled. They’re way stronger than we were – the athleticism is just ridiculous across the board and that’ my take on it. The younger kids’ skill level is just ridiculous compared to what we were back in the day.

AD: Interesting.

CB: And just watching my son and other kids – we have a lot of other kids who are amazing. You go to some of these events and you have younger and older kids. I can tell you right now that we weren’t playing against kids that were doing some of the stuff these kids are doing now.

AD: In terms of athleticism and dunking?

CB: I’m talking about skill set. You’ve got 6’9” guys who can handle the ball like point guards. The post-game isn’t seen anymore, which I think is a bad sign, but I just think individual skills are way higher than they were back when we played in high school. I look at the teams we played on, the guys I played with, myself included – I couldn’t do half the stuff I see ninth and tenth graders doing now.

AD: Where were you when you heard LaSalle was going to be demolished and how did you feel about it?

CB: Ah man. When was that, 2000? I was back here from New Hampshire and I was devastated just because LaSalle was so much more than a basketball team. It was like a family and I don’t mean just your basketball guys. It was a family in terms of your friends and the people you grew up with. LaSalle was a tight knit school. There wasn’t much violence or fights or all that crazy stuff going on. When you heard that it was breaking up, you felt like things were going to change. I’m not just talking about basketball, but in general; it was just something that I felt was bad for our city.

AD: So, aside from the LaSalle basketball dynasty going away, has there been an effect on the city?

CB: When you’re relating it to sports, I look at it as having a negative effect. It’s funny, because every year you hear parents, friends and people who have issues and say, ‘Hey there’s a lot of favoritism going on at this high school because our kid didn’t make the team, or this kid didn’t make that team!’ They don’t realize that you combined these two schools (LaSalle and Niagara Falls Senior High Schools) so you used to have 24-26 spots, and now you can only grab 12 kids.

I think it has taken away from our kids from an athletic standpoint where you have a lot of kids walking around that high school now that are really good at some sports, but unfortunately, there are 12 guys better than them. Do you know what I mean? I think it’s just negatively impacted it in that way and I thought just having the option of two different schools was something that gave a lot of kids more options and a better chance than they have now.

AD: Okay. For any youngster aspiring to play basketball or to achieve any other life goal, what advice would you give them?

CB: The first one is that you must have the books over everything. Being from Buffalo and up in the Falls, you see so much talent wasted because kids aren’t there academically. There are a million stories of guys who didn’t get out (of the neighborhood) and were amazing in any sport, and my thing is that education must be first. You’ve got to get that education and you’ve got to work hard in the classroom.

Then obviously, with the sports part, you can’t cheat it. There are those rare guys who are born good at something, but you can’t cheat the process. You’ve got to get into the gym, and you’ve got to work at it. It’s a grind and you’ve got to be in there really working at whatever your goal is almost daily now. And really those are it. I think we’ve had a lot of guys from around here go off to college and play and it shows that if you really put your time in and you do your work in the classroom, you can get out of here.

AD: Is there anything you would change about your playing days?

CB: My playing days? No, nothing at all.

AD: Well, Carlos, unless you have any other comments or stories, we are at the end. I really appreciate this. One thing that will be evident from my interviews with you, Tim and Coach Monti, is that while you guys were the team that everyone was trying to beat, I developed a lot of respect for LaSalle basketball and what you all accomplished. I’ll also try to catch a Niagara Falls High School game when I’m back there over the Holidays.

CB: Okay, great, thanks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls basketball legend Time Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp

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Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one

“Our whole family, including my cousins, was a basketball family and I just grew up watching basketball.”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. A key aspect of creating them is hearing the stories and experiences of those who have made it to where we want to be. Like many kids, an early dream of mine was to play basketball. That dream didn’t reach fruition, but the lessons I learned playing in Section VI, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s western-most section, laid the groundwork for me to go on to further my education and start my career in science.

I’m currently working on a project chronicling my early basketball journey, and as a part of the research for that project, I’ve interviewed numerous Section VI basketball players and coaches from my era. On September 26, 2018, I had the honor of interviewing Carlos Bradberry – one of the many great guards in Coach Pat Monti’s LaSalle basketball dynasty. Carlos was the floor general for the Explorers following Michael Starks and Modie Cox, and then prior to the ascension of Tim Winn, Jody Crymes and Terry Rich.

In part one of this two-part interview Carlos discusses his background, how he started playing basketball, and how he became one of the legendary point guards in Section VI and the LaSalle basketball dynasty. The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Section VI basketball, carefully assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Section V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Carlos himself, and his Head Coach at LaSalle Senior High School, Pat Monti. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

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Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Carlos. First, thank you for telling your story. As you know I wrote some pieces on Coach Monti and Tim Winn. I’m a blogger and, as you may also know, I’m writing a book about my high school basketball experience and what that taught me about success and failure in life. The experience of high school basketball was my first attempt at effecting a personal goal and it set the stage for everything else.

To make the story as authentic as possible I wanted talk to some of the other Section VI players from that era – teammates and opponents to see what their experiences were. This is relevant because LaSalle was the premiere program in Section VI for 10-12 years and for a stretch of that, you were the guy. Also, when I started this project, I actually said to myself, ‘It would be great to interview Carlos Bradberry,’ as you were a member of the ‘All-Western New Your First Team’ during my sophomore and junior seasons.

Before we start, I have a quick story. We played your team in the 1991 Festival of Lights Tournament in the opening round. You guys handled us by about 30 points (laughing). My story is one of discovery, so I was literally figuring everything out as I went along. The day before the game, just after our Coach gave us the scouting report, one of my teammates said as we were leaving the gym, ‘We’re not going to beat LaSalle!’ I wondered how he could say such a thing. The next day as the game gradually unfolded, I saw his point (laughing). I remember you slashing to the basket repeatedly, and the announcer calling your name repeatedly. I developed a respect for you after that game and kept my eye on what you were doing.

With that, let’s start. Where is the Bradberry family from? Are you all from Niagara Falls or somewhere else?

Carlos Bradberry: My grandfather is from Alabama, but we’re for the most part, from here.

AD: Don’t you have an older brother named Cazzie?

CB: Yes. Cazzie is two years older than me. He graduated with Modie Cox, Scotty Rose, and Anthony Wallace – those guys.

AD: How old were you when you started playing basketball?

CB: I was eight or nine when I started playing in the Boys Club, which was a ‘rite of passage’ for everyone in Niagara Falls back then. It was the only thing going on. If you were anybody playing basketball, you came through the ‘Biddy Leagues’ or the Boys Club. I played for the actual Boys Club team.

AD: Was your Dad a basketball player? Did you see your older brother play and wanted to play as well, or did you just naturally want to play?

CB: I think my Dad was a good high school football and basketball player. My Dad’s playing days were done by the time I became interested in basketball. Our whole family, including my cousins, was a basketball family and I just grew up watching basketball.

My Dad used to take us to high school games when Trott-Vocational was really good back in the day. We’d go to see Trott and Niagara Falls play. That’s what really got me going and it was just a family thing. Basketball was it for my cousins and me. My cousins always played, so I was always playing with them.

AD: I think I saw in one of the Buffalo News stories that there was a Niagara Falls Senior High School player who also had the last name Bradberry. Did you have a cousin over there?

CB: I had two cousins over there – Darien and Cortez. They graduated the same year as my brother in 1991.

AD: This is fascinating because what I’m gathering is that Niagara Falls was a much smaller community compared to Buffalo which had 14 high schools and the city was bigger, so not everyone knew each other. It sounds like you guys all knew each other, and you were all playing together, even before you got to the high school level.

CB: Yes, everybody knew each other, and everybody played together. Growing up I didn’t know where I was going to play because of how they had the school districts sectioned off. I lived within walking distance to Niagara Falls Senior High School, but they bused us to LaSalle.

I was a LaSalle kid and it was miles and miles away from my house. I didn’t really know until I reached middle school – I went to LaSalle Middle School instead of Gaskill. Gaskill was the other middle school at the time, and it still is.

AD: What was it called?

CB: Gaskill. So primarily those kids went to Niagara Falls Senior High School, and the LaSalle Middle School kids obviously when to LaSalle Senior High School.

AD: I discussed the Biddy Leagues with Tim Winn. We had middle school teams in Buffalo, but it sounds like Niagara Falls did not have those. And so everyone played in the Biddy Leagues until you were ready to play in one of the two Junior Varsity (JV) programs. Were guys getting quality coaching in the Biddy Leagues or did they just throw the balls out there and let you run around?

CB: It’s funny. We always had the older guys who knew basketball. I know that Mike Hamilton, who is a referee now, coached me primarily when I was in the Biddy Leagues. He’s a real ‘basketball’ guy. There was the Boys Club, the Thirteenth Street Center, and there was another community center – so there were three to four centers and all of them basically had basketball guys in those positions. It wasn’t just guys showing up off the street and wanting to coach their kids or something.

AD: That’s fascinating, because I think the coaching, we had in Buffalo was really varied. Which players did you look up to in college or pro?

CB: I’m showing my age here but growing up I was a huge Dr. J guy when I started watching basketball, and then I was a Jordan guy obviously. Allen Iverson was more my age, so he was my favorite player once I got older. But at the time I didn’t know much about him because we were around the same age. I also have a weird one. My favorite college player was Greg Anthony. Most people would say, ‘Who?’ Greg Anthony was my favorite player back when the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) had those great college teams. I wore number 50 which was an odd number for a guard, but that’s why I wore that number in high school.

AD: Yes, I remember you wearing that number. So, you had your eyes on the college teams. That’s interesting because Tim told me that he had his eyes on the Niagara Falls high school basketball teams, for the most part.

CB: As far as when I was younger, Modie was a couple of years older than me, so he was more like a peer. There was a guy named Mike Starks who played for LaSalle – he was amazing and one of the best guards that no one ever talks about. When I started going to LaSalle games, I was in the sixth and seventh grades. Me and my buddies would just go to games. We wanted to be the next Mike Starks. He was the guy that I looked up to around here basketball-wise.

AD: What was special about Michael’s game? Could he do everything?

CB: Man, he could do everything. He was 6’3”. He could jump, he could shoot, and he could handle the ball. He was the point guard and his game was rare back then. Your point guard was the guy to set guys up, but man he could shoot, he could get to the basket, and he could jump – he had the whole package.

AD: Okay. So that was the 1988 Class B Federation Championship team. It was loaded then because they had guys like Eric Gore.

CB: Yes, Eric Gore, Frank and Michael Starks, Elon McCracken, and Modie (he was young).

AD: Well obviously, you had Christian Laettner in the Niagara Frontier League (NFL) then, but were you aware of any of the Buffalo guys like Ritchie Campbell and Marcus Whitfield?

CB: Ritchie and Marcus were the two guys I’d always hear about in seventh grade and that’s when I started to play for LaSalle. Those dudes were amazing!

AD: And the JV team – Coach Rotundo oversaw that?

CB: Yep.

AD: Early on, what kind of player were you? Coach Monti described you as a ‘scoring’ guard. Were you that right away or did you have to grow into that role?

CB: I always thought I was a scorer and that was always my mentality, ever since I was younger. In my freshman year, I started on the JV team and was moved up midway through the season to play on the Varsity team. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a bigtime scorer on the Varsity level as a freshman or as a sophomore, because we just had so many senior guys.

I was a starter, but Coach Monti let you know your role. It’s something that’s lost today. Kids don’t have roles today and everyone thinks they’re a scorer and a star. I had to earn my minutes and if I got an open shot, I was happy because I knew that it was Modie’s, Milo’s, and Duke’s team, and I was there to play my role.

AD: What was your role? Was it to play defense on the other team’s best guy?

CB: No, I wasn’t the greatest defender, especially when I was in the ninth grade (laughing). He brought me in for offense as a freshman and I may have averaged around nine points a game or something which was decent back then. He basically brought me in and let me know that, ‘Hey, you’re basically here to score when the chance comes,’ so more than anything I was there to help offensively.

AD: Talk about playing for Coach Monti. After talking with him, I got the impression that he was very, very intense.

CB: Oh yeah. Very intense. Intense, but giving great attention to detail was his greatest asset. You never went into a game unprepared. You knew what was going to happen and you were either prepared through game plans he spent a bunch of time on, or you were prepared because of what we practiced and worked on every day.

There were things that he did that had me college-ready that I know other high schools weren’t doing at that time like defensively, positioning off the ball, how you play ‘one pass away’ and ‘two passes away’. Coaches around here weren’t teaching that. Everything was tight. Again, not knocking any of the college coaches. I played at two Division I schools and I always say that Coach Monti was the most knowledgeable coach that I’ve ever played for!

AD: Wow. Well let’s talk some ‘Xs and Os’. You said that you were brought on as a freshman and your role was to score. Coach Monti described LaSalle’s offense as unselfish – everyone sharing the ball. Tim basically did too. From the outside looking in, you seemed to be the featured guy. Were you guys running a ‘motion’ offense or were you running an ‘isolation’ for someone?

CB: I know it changed during Tim’s years and he let those guys ‘freelance’ more. Basically, our main offense in my freshman through my senior years was called “Flex”, which is a ‘dinosaur’ offense now, as no one really runs it anymore. It’s about ball movement, body movement, setting picks for each other. You were working with each other and there wasn’t a lot of ‘one on one’ stuff. It was basically five guys working together, and it was weird when we wouldn’t get open looks. Flex was one offense, but there were a million different ‘wrinkles’ in it.

So, it wasn’t like, ‘Okay here’s this one offense and if this one thing doesn’t work we’re shutdown.’ It was more like, ‘Okay, they took this away, so here’s the next option…..’ There were always four to five options to that one set where something was going to be open. That was our base offense for four years. We did a little bit of some other things, but we spent a ton of time on Flex and its different options and it worked for us.

AD: Before we move on, you got moved up as a freshman. Were all the guys you graduated with in the same group? I’m referring to guys like Curtis Ralands, Chris Frank, Todd Guetta and O’Neal Barnett – all the guys who were on the Varsity team when you were a junior and a senior. Were all of you on the JV team and you got moved up first? Or was it a gradual thing?

CB: I went up in the ninth grade. I don’t think the other guys came up until the eleventh grade. Shino Ellis may have played on the Varsity team in the tenth grade if I’m not mistaken – he was a year older than me. Todd, Chris, Curtis and those guys all came up in the eleventh grade. Curtis came over from Niagara Falls Senior High School, which was a boost for us. He played JV there and then ended up at LaSalle in the eleventh grade.

AD: What was so special about Curtis coming over? I remember the goggles, the bald head, and the intensity, but what would you say was his major contribution?

CB: Curtis was like our ‘enforcer’. He brought toughness to our team. He didn’t care if he scored 1 point or 20. He was going to do all the dirty work: rebounding the ball, defending and taking charges. He was definitely a Dennis Rodman-type.

AD: So you had your role as a freshman. Was it the same as a sophomore or did Coach Monti give you more ‘leash’?

CB: As a tenth grader I started the whole year. I had more leash, but it still obviously wasn’t my team. That year Modie, Cazzie, Scotty Rose, Anthony Wallace and myself were the starting five I believe. I had a larger role on offense and I think I was depended upon more to score because Modie was our guy – he was great at distributing – he was a pure point guard. If you ran the floor, you were going to get a bucket. Scotty played a lot more ‘down low’ and was probably our second leading scorer after Modie. On the wing I think I was our next guy, so I had a much bigger role in my sophomore year within the offense.

AD: That’s awesome. So, you got a lot of quality minutes early on. Were you there against Lancaster, and in the Far West Regionals against schools like East and McQuaid?

CB: Our 86-57 loss to McQuaid was the worst I’d ever taken in high school.

AD: What was so bad about it? Did you guys just have an off day?

CB: We had an off day and they had the big 7’ kid – I think his name was McKinney or something. They had size, but they also had these guards who were coming down and pulling up a step beyond NBA range. We just weren’t seeing that in our area in Section VI. It almost seemed like the perfect game for them and the worst game for us. Anything they shot up went in and it just snowballed on us. It was the worst game I’d played in as far as taking a loss in high school.

AD: So that was your sophomore year. Before you talk about your junior year, what kinds of things were you guys doing in the offseason? I know that was before Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball got big.

CB: I can’t remember if I went to a camp that year or the next year. It was more so playing locally. There was the big travel-AAU type of thing. We’d go down to Philadelphia and play against Rasheed Wallace who went to North Carolina, and the Jason Lawson kid who went to Villanova. The Public Athletic League (PAL) tournaments used to be huge back then. The Head Coach at Niagara Falls High School now, Sal, was the one taking us on all the PAL trips back then. You played Division I guys from other cities, and that was sort of our AAU-thing back then.

AD: You said Sal?

CB: Yes, Sal Constantino. He was the PAL guy who took us on those trips to the big PAL tournaments back then which were huge.

AD: Going into your junior year, Modie and his fellow seniors graduated so it was basically your team. What was your mentality going into that year?

CB: I knew what we had, and not being cocky, but I thought we were going to be very good. A lot of people didn’t know what we had, but I knew. We had Shino, Todd, Curtis and Chris Frank – we had guys who could play basketball. But our Varsity program was so good that those guys didn’t get a chance to play yet. Our JV teams were awesome, they got awesome coaching and they came out of the system, so we had guys who could really play basketball. Now, we wound up losing only one game. I didn’t think we were going to be that good, but we had a good run until we played John Wallace.

AD: Okay, we’re going to get to John Wallace and Greece-Athena shortly (laughing). Your team ran mostly the Flex offense, but it seemed like you were the guy. You were LaSalle’s leading scorer. Was that just something the team understood – that you would be the number one option – or did Coach Monti make that explicitly clear from day one?

CB: Coach Monti made no reservations about letting guys know their roles. It was, ‘Shino and Carlos are going to be our two scorers and everyone else is going to fit in where we fit them in!’ We had a guy named O’Neal Barnett who knew that he was going to come in and defend our opponent’s best guy. Some nights he’d score 2 points and some nights he’s score 10 points, but he could care less. He knew that he was going to come in and lock down our next guy and he was fine with that.

We had Curtis who knew that he was going to come in and just grab every rebound. Coach Monti would have talks at the beginning of the year, and the middle of the year. There wasn’t any question of who was going to be doing what or what their role was. It was laid out and you knew what was going to happen.

AD: Wow. So everyone accepted their roles.

CB: Yes, everybody bought in and I think that’s just because of the success of the program. If you’re winning every year, it’s easy to sell that to kids. If he was losing every year, I don’t think it would’ve happened.

AD: So you guys went on to go 23-0. You beat us, and you started that year winning the Corning Cup in Albany, NY and, Carlos, I’ve got a funny story. Were you a trash-talker? The reason I’m asking is because in the Class B-1 quarterfinal in 1992, we matched up with the Niagara Falls Power Cats at LaSalle’s gym. In the lobby, the trophy case had individual polaroids of you and your teammates standing there posing in each of photos because you were undefeated at that point and riding a lot of momentum.

One of our seniors – this a true story – saw your picture in the case and he said, ‘Man. I can’t stand that Bleepedy-Bleep!’ I looked at your picture and I looked at him, and I said to myself, ‘This person must’ve have been guarding Carlos Bradberry when we played LaSalle, and maybe Carlos was jawing at him.

CB: Yeah, (laughing) I was, and I forgot to mention that another one of my favorite players was Gary Payton. You watch him play and you’re going to pick up some things from him. It’s funny because Coach Monti used to say that I was this quiet and reserved guy, but once I got on the court it was different. I was a different animal and I’d consider myself a trash-talker for sure.

AD: Now, was that you or was Coach Monti rubbing off on you? I got the sense that he was very, very confident and I imagine that was contagious.

CB: I think it was just me. It was never predetermined or preplanned, and once you get into that moment you get so focused and lose yourself on the basketball court. I was raised with a bunch of uncles and cousins who were hard on me. We went to the basketball court and they’re talking junk to you, they’re beating up on you, and you learn how to be tough and not back down and that’s how it manifested itself for me.

AD: In the 1992 Class B-1 Sectional Final at UB’s Alumni Arena, we had just lost to Grand Island and as we were exiting the court, your team came charging out in a single-file line. You were at the front, and I remember reaching out and ‘dapping’ you up. You had the ball in one hand, saw me and we slapped hands and then you went into your pregame warmup before going on to defeat Williamsville North that night 62-52.

After defeating Williamsville North, your team advanced to the Far West Regional against Section V’s Class A Champion, Greece-Athena from the Rochester area. They were also 23-0 and they were calling the game the “Meeting of the Perfect Strangers”. Rochester is basically our ‘sister’ city and it’s only an hour away. Did you know about John Wallace ahead of time?

CB: I heard of him, but social media wasn’t big back then so I may have heard his name, but I didn’t know him like that until Coach Monti showed the video and we started to scout for them and I was like, ‘HOLY COW!’ It was ridiculous what you were watching. But no, I didn’t really have a beat on the Rochester and Syracuse guys. I just knew the Niagara Falls and Buffalo guys.

AD: So the team was able to watch the film before the game. What stood out to you?

CB: He was dunking on everybody. He was blocking everybody’s shot. For me it was exciting because I knew that we would get into it at some point during the game, because it was in my competitive nature and his. We did get into it at some point, but I hadn’t played against anything like that personally in our area. We didn’t have a guy like that, so seeing him on video – what he was doing at 6’9” was ridiculous. Back then, 6’9” guys weren’t popping out shooting jump shots like he was, and going ‘inside-out’. I just knew we were going to have our hands full.

AD: Yes, there weren’t any big men like that here. Well actually, weren’t Kevin Sanford and Eric Eberz at that level?

CB: Yes, Kevin was close. Maybe I played against him in a few leagues, but I never played against him in a real high school basketball game and didn’t see him much. So it was just different seeing that.

AD: Leading up to the game, did you have ‘butterflies’? Or did it feel like this was just another game?

CB: I think our whole team was confident, but we all had butterflies every single game. That game was no different and I think we all went in thinking that we had the game plan and that we would win it. Somehow someway we were going to make it happen. We did for a half (laughing).

AD: When you guys went out for the jump ball, you saw that he had “DA MAN” cut on the back of his head (laughing). You know what’s funny, is that both Coach Monti and Tim Winn mentioned that with a bit of snark. So the fact that he cut that on the back of his head, even 25 years later, really seemed to stick with them. In general, did that strike you as being arrogant?

CB: Oh, I was pissed off and Coach Monti made a point of it too. He’d play mind games with us to piss us off. He’d say, ‘Look at this guy. He’s got DA MAN on the back of his head!’ I was ready to go nuts just when I saw him. I was thinking this dude thinks he’s really that guy. I got enraged before the game because we were all sitting in the stands watching the game before ours and he’s laying down sleeping in the stands! I’m going nuts saying, ‘Look at this dude, he’s over there sleeping, and he’s got play us!’ Everything he did made me go sort of nuts, but he backed everything up though.

AD: One last question about the game. As Coach Monti pointed out, you guys were right there with Greece-Athena for three quarters and it was close. What happened?

CB: As I remember it, and Coach Monti probably has a better memory than me, I think we were either down two or tied at the half and I know that at that time Greece-Athena was playing us in a regular “man to man” defense. If they had done that for the rest of the game they would’ve lost. At the half, I think we had 27 points. I had 10 points and Shino had 15, so we had 25 of our 27 points.

Their Coach did a great job and came out in a “Triangle and Two” on Shino and me, so we didn’t score a point in the second half; they basically took us away. Our other guys got the open looks and shots we wanted, but they just didn’t fall. Their Coach wasn’t going to let Shino or me win that game that night. I kicked myself numerous times afterwards wondering what I could’ve done to be more aggressive and if Shino and I could’ve done more. But the fact of the matter is that it was a good move for their Coach and it worked out for them that night.

AD: You know, I taped that game. I watched it at home and, unfortunately, didn’t go. After watching it and thinking about how you guys beat us handily all summer long, I thought about how I wanted to get on the court and play against you the next year. First, I got injured and secondly, they flipped the brackets. So we opened against Niagara Falls Senior High School in the Festival of Lights Tournament. They narrowly beat us and you played them again while we played in the consolation game again against Bennett. I’m not sure how much of a difference I would’ve made (laughing), but I was at least looking forward to getting on the court with you.

In part two of this interview, Carlos talks about his senior year at LaSalle, his college career, and then life after basketball. Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Niagara Falls basketball legend Time Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls Coaching Legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp
Lasting Lessons basketball taught me: An introduction

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