Every Kentucky basketball fan who remembers the halcyon days of 2004 recalls the excitement of that recruiting class coming together. It was ranked #1 in the nation almost unanimously, and Ramel Bradley was one reason why.
Four years later, and with Basketball season now less than 50 days away, let's reminisce about Ramel, from his days as a high-school phenom to the days in the near future when he will become a senior leader for the most storied basketball program in the land.
Ramel Bradley was first noticed on the national scene as a teammate of Sebastian Telfair. Bradley was noted for his soft touch and quick drives to the basket, as well as his defensive prowess. Last year, many people questioned Ramel's shot selection, but this is not something he developed at Kentucky. This was noted back as early as 2001, as was his propensity to play out of control and turn the ball over.
In 2003, Ramel relocated to IMG Academy in Florida from Mt. Zion in North Carolina. It was at about this time that Kentucky became a player in his recruitment. By Labor Day of 2003, Kentucky was a clear leader for Bradley. He wanted to visit UK during Big Blue Madness, but test scores not being in prevented that. But by early November, Ramel had decided on his new Kentucky home. He announced his commitment to the Cats on November 10th, the first of the Big Four to do so.
In 2004-2005, Ramel was a key sub in a pretty good Kentucky team that was a Kelenna Azubuike rebound away from the Final Four. Bradley averaged 12 minutes and almost 5 points/game that year, with his high of 14 coming at Georgia.
In 2005-2006, Ramel upped his averages to almost 8 points and 17 minutes per game, providing solid backup point guard services for the Wildcats. This team will not be remembered in Kentucky lore, as it struggled through half the season without starting center Randolph Morris, and was not much improved after Morris' return. His high game was 18 against Ohio. His assist/turnover ratio was the lowest of his career at 0.95.
2006-2007 was Ramel's third year at Kentucky, and his first year at a starting position. First, he started at point, but was quickly moved back to the shooting guard spot when his turnovers became a serious problem. Ramel averaged almost 33 minutes, 13 points, almost 4 rebounds and almost 4 assists with an A/T ratio of 1.42, his career best. Later in the year, Ramel provided a serious scoring punch for the Wildcats with his season high of 24 at Arkansas, bookended by 21 point efforts against Tennessee and South Carolina.
In 2007, Bradley returns as a senior along with classmate Joe Crawford. Their last season at UK will be for new coach and a new system. During the summer, it is said that Bradley has gained another several pounds of muscle, and has played well in pick-up games, although most of the attention has been on the freshmen.
2007-2008 is Ramel Bradley's final chance to leave an indelible mark on the Big Blue Nation. So far, he has had a solid but unremarkable career and participated on two of the most forgettable Kentucky teams in recent memory. This season will be different, primarily because it is Billy Gillispie's first season, and Bradley has a chance to remake himself in the image of his reputation when he came to Kentucky -- one of the top players in the nation. If Ramel can fix his turnover and shot selection problems with his senior maturity, he has the skills to be remembered long in the Bluegrass. As we inch closer to the season, we can only imagine what he is thinking and how he is feeling about his four years here.
This is Ramel's time -- there will be no other at Kentucky. Will he reach out and touch the pantheon of those immortalized in Rupp's rafters, bringing us a season to remember? Or will he ride off to follow his classmate Randolph Morris into the lonely place known as "What might have been?"