On the court, Chatil Bradford is a Jill of all trades.
As a freshman with the Columbus State women’s basketball team, Bradford played more on the perimeter than the post. As the team lost size over the next two seasons, however, she moved to power forward and, as a junior this season, to center.
Even the role the Lady Cougars coaches defined for her (“encouraging enforcer”) contains two words in direct conflict with each other, demonstrating the team’s range of expectations.
But it’s nothing new for Bradford, who is second on the team in scoring (10.2 points per game) and second in rebounds (5.2 per game). She knows her versatility is a strength, and she’s prepared that way both on and off the court for her entire life.
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“That’s exactly how I was raised,” Bradford said on Tuesday a few minutes before the team began practice to prepare for the Peach Belt Conference tournament, which begins on Thursday at the Lumpkin Center in Columbus. “My mom always taught me to have backup plans, to be involved in different things that could help me in the future.”
So, in high school, she played four different sports. She got her cosmetology license after high school as a backup for the degree in communications she is pursuing in college.
At Columbus State, the only sport she plays is basketball, so she filled her “free time” with an internship at a radio station last year, where she worked from 5-10 a.m. She also works as a life guards at the student recreation center.
“I never want to be left stranded,” she said. “I told Coach (Jonathan Norton) when I got here that I don’t like to focus on just one thing. I have to find other things to keep me focused.”
While some coaches may prefer that their players focus on two things — class and basketball — Norton said that he thinks Bradford’s drive to excel in multiple fields is a good thing and reflects well on the court.
“It helps,” he said. “Sometimes, girls are tired and the grind can get to you, but very rarely is Bradford affected by that. She can focus and pay attention know matter what else she has going on, and that’s huge this time of the year.”
That personality also may contribute to her flexibility in terms of her role on the teams.
When Bradford joined the team, she said, she came in with the attitude that she was willing to do whatever the coaches asked her to do. If that meant be a scorer, that’s what she would try to do. If she needed to facilitate other scorers, that wasn’t a problem. And if she needed to be a cheerleader on the bench, she wouldn’t like it as much, but she’d embrace the role nonetheless.
“In college, everyone’s an all-star from their area,” Bradford said. “I came in here saying that I’d do whatever the coach needed me to do.
“This year, that meant playing down low, so I dusted off my post moves.”
To great effect, it should be noted.
Norton admitted that he and the coaches worried how Bradford would succeed playing center against girls that had more size than she did. At 5-foot-10, Bradford is on the small side in comparison to other players at her position in the conference.
But she has proven her ability outweighs the size disparity, the coach said.
“I didn’t worry about her play, just her height,” Norton said. “But she’s proven she can handle it.
“(She’s best at) sealing in the post, getting into great position. She is very physical.”
That was something she had to learn, Bradford said.
“I had to learn how to take more hits and how to hit first to gain position,” she said.
But it was something she embraced. All she was doing was something she had done for years—providing a backup plan when the situation warranted.
“To her credit, whatever we ask her to do, she does,” Norton said. “That’s just who she is.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.