Bartow (Bartow, Fla.) center Tony Bradley vividly remembers being dumbfounded when he noticed that there were no North Carolina recruits in last year’s McDonald’s All American Game.
“I couldn’t believe that no Tar Heels were in the game,” said Bradley, who signed with North Carolina in November. “It was just crazy because you always see the North Carolina guy in that game.”
On Friday, Bradley officially restored the Tar Heels order when he received his game jersey during the McDonald’s All American Hometown Heroes presented by American Family Insurance.
The game tips March 30 at the United Center in Chicago.
“I was just really excited to get the hat and the jersey today,” said Bradley, who will suit up for the East and is ranked No. 21 overall in the ESPN 100. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity to play in this game. It’s big for me because I’m the only North Carolina recruit in the game and I’m the first McDonald’s All American ever at Bartow.”
What’s even bigger is that Bradley is the first McDonald’s All American to graduate from a school in his county.
“We’ve had guys in the past from Polk County like Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwayne Bacon and Tracy McGrady, but they all left to play elsewhere in high school,” Bartow coach Terrence McGriff. “Tony is from here and graduating from here and it’s a big deal because it’s showing the country that there’s a basketball hotbed here in Polk County. We’re all very proud of him; he’s definitely put in the work.”
That work has translated into big numbers this season, Bradley is averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds a game and has led Bartow to a 13-7 record.
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Still, at least from North Carolina’s perspective, his most important work may come on Jan. 29 when he faces fellow McDonald’s All American center Udoka Azubuike in the Mosaic Stinger Shootout.
Azubuike, who will also suit up for the East, is strongly considering North Carolina in his final list of potential colleges.
“I would love to have him as a teammate,” Bradley said. “I may do a little recruiting during the game, we’ll see. Right now I’m just really excited about being a McDonald’s All American. It seems even more real now. It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY