Bradshaw’s comeback looming for Cats

Published 10:26 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

By LARRY VAUGHT

Contributing Columnist

Barring another setback, Kentucky freshman 7-footer Aaron Bradshaw should finally be playing for coach John Calipari.

He hurt his foot at the McDonald’s All-American Game in March and had surgery in June that sidelined him all summer. He finally started light practice workouts last week according to Calipari.

When he does play in a game, Bradshaw — a top 10 player in his recruiting class and already projected as a 2024 NBA first-round draft pick — hopes to remind Kentucky fans of former UK All-American Anthony Davis, the nation’s most outstanding player during the 2011-12 season when UK won its last national championship.

“I am definitely going to bring that old school look,” Bradshaw said.

Davis now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers but Bradshaw knows what he did at UK.

“That is one of my favorite players, so I got to know a little something about him,” Bradshaw said. “I have never met him. It would be something if I could. Anthony Davis, I am a fan boy. I am going to get a picture and all that. Cal has to make that happen for me.”

Kentucky fans are going to see a 7-footer with a variety of skills to go with rebounding and shot blocking. He can handle the ball, pass and hit outside jumpers, all reasons Calipari may use him at forward as well as center.

However, fans are also going to see an outgoing, engaging player who enjoys himself on and off the court.

“My mother and my grandmother made me that way. Just growing up with them, they always stood on what they said and have always been themselves. I always copied that and admired that in them. They never tried to switch up for nobody,” the Kentucky freshman said.

“I just love being me. I love to make people smile and just be a good person. I just love doing that.”

He knows Kentucky has a passionate fan base that can overwhelm some players but felt it was perfect for him.

“Yes. I love it. I ain’t going to lie. All the fans, all the people, they just support you and all I can do is just give the love back,” Bradshaw said.

He did more than just give the land back during an autograph signing tour UK basketball players did last summer to raise money for Eastern Kentucky flood relief. Bradshaw wore a T-shirt to the signing at Kroger in Versailles that UK players got during the GLOBL Jam in Canada. A fan told him he had been trying to find the same shirt to buy but couldn’t find one. Bradshaw bought himself a T-shirt in the store and then gave his GLOBL Jam shirt to the fan.

“I just did that to be nice. I like to do stuff under the scenes. I didn’t think he was going to post it (on social media) or anything. I was not doing it for attention,” Bradshaw said. “I was just doing it for the pure fact he said he had tried looking for the shirt and really wanted it. If I can see another person smile, I will be good for the rest of my life. I like making people smile.”

He also took extra time after Big Blue Madness to sign autographs for young UK fans.

“That is kids. They started screaming and I loved it. No way I was not going to stop and sign for them,” Bradshaw said.

Knowing how much fans have wanted to see him has made not playing even harder on Bradshaw.

“Yeah, I ain’t going to lie to you. It made me want to get back faster but I couldn’t rush the process. I can only do what I can do and be me,” he said.

While Bradshaw admits UK’s fan base did help bring him to Kentucky, he says NIL (name, image & likeness) money did not play the significant role many assumed it did.

“It didn’t really have an impact on me. I just know the circumstances of coming here like stuff I would get, people I would get in contact with. Just knowing I could get in contact with pros and a bunch of realtors and bunch of like people I could get knowledge from, of course I am going to come here,” he said.

“They (UK coaches) approached recruiting the same way with NIL. It was all genuine, all love. It didn’t really change my thinking about Kentucky due to that (NIL). I knew I would have opportunities here but that’s not what got me here.”