The journey is over but in some ways it is just beginning.
Thursday’s loss in the NCAA Tournament ended the Bradley careers of the seniors who were in Brian Wardle’s first recruiting class.
“They’ve helped our program grown in all areas, not just on the court but academically, socially, in the community, on campus,” said Wardle. “They have done a tremendous job and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They have obviously left the program in a much, much better pace. That’s success, right there, that is leadership.”
Wardle’s Braves fell to Michigan State, 76-65, in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
“I can’t believe it, yet,” said senior Luuk van Bree. “For all I know we are going to watch film tonight and practice tomorrow. I’m sure that will sink in sometime soon.
Those seniors are the players who helped turn Bradley from a five-win team in 2015 to an NCAA Tournament team this year. BU played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 seasons and for just the third time in 31 years.
“Coach Wardle is going to have them working and competing,” said senior Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye. “They can be in this position again and get a couple more wins. It is great to leave it but I’m going to miss it.”
As Bradley closes the book on this season, the Braves hope their experience in the NCAA Tournament pays dividends next year and in seasons to come.
“At the beginning of the season, sometimes we play to the level of our competition. But anytime it’s a stage like this, we seem to rise to the occasion,” said junior Nate Kennell. “And we are going to continue to do that in the future.”
Bradley was a 9-9 team in the Missouri Valley Conference but advanced to the NCAA Tournament after winning 12 of its last 16 games, including the MVC title game.
“If you don’t respect us after this season, I don’t know what to tell you,” said junior Darrell Brown. “If we didn’t get respect this season, we’ve got next year. And we’ll try to get back here.”