Unless you’re the Kentucky Wildcats, senior leadership is paramount and vital to a basketball team’s success.
For the 2013 Adair Warriors team, there’s no question where the leading roles rest, it’s two seniors: Brady Bradbury and Jordan Fleming.
Though a team with two seniors is common, the intensity with which the two pilot weekly competition is, at the least, noteworthy.
“We really have to be leaders and role models … and do so by example in order to keep the tradition going here,” Fleming said.
The tradition, in numbers, amounts to 50-19 in the seasons leading up to their concluding go-around.
Leading roles, a commonly expected inheritance for a team with two seniors, is two-fold, natural leadership and learned leadership.
An intensity or level of aggressive command from a player is a natural disposition in a senior leader. The desire to lead cannot be taught. However, the leadership a player is exposed to as an underclassman influences a player’s future guidance-style.
“Adair's leadership was really more like a brotherhood,” Fleming said. “We all got along, we helped each other out and we pushed ourselves to be better every day in practice. The leaders last year put us all in line to win and we all listened because that's all we wanted was the win. In my years at Ketchum, I was just a freshman and a sophomore and wasn't really appreciative of leadership so I wasn't really exposed to much.”
Brady has been a starter since freshman year, and green and white has coursed through his veins since sixth grade.
He couldn’t avoid absorbing the inherently diverse styles of leadership which accompany fluctuating passing classes.
As aggressive and vocal as Bradbury is when directing his younger guys, his headstrong mentality is coupled with an awareness for a need to grow, to improve.
“This is the year I have really had to lead vocally. I'm really learning when to get on to the guys and when to encourage them when they mess up,” said Bradbury.
The four-year starter’s insatiable desire to win is second to none. His fiercely competitive demeanor defines him. But the tunnel vision which facilitates the focus needed to win coexists with compassion.
“I know I mess up all the time and sometimes I need to be yelled at to get focused, and the other times I need support and encourage them. I have faith they’ll get it right the next time. The main thing is that we are kids and it is not the end of the world if we mess up and that is the biggest thing I have learned,” Bradbury said.
Adair Head Coach Travis Cannady offers the most knowledgeable assessment of the two seniors, especially Bradbury, who since he’s coached him since sixth grade.
“The one thing that separated him from everyone else is his determination to win,” Cannady said. “Even to the point of being overly emotional about losing or getting upset when a teammate may not be where he should be. I can’t tell you how many times I had to line him out about his emotions in junior high. Brady has come a long way since those days, and what I mean is he is still extremely competitive but takes what is best for his team and teammates.”
Cannady said Fleming and Bradbury are a lot alike as leaders in terms of desire, work ethic and game preparation, so much so that others gravitate toward their habits.
He said they differ, however, in their delivery.
“Brady is a more emotional and up front leader who finds ways to inspire his younger players to become greater and better,” Cannady said. “Jordan on the other hand is a different leader in that he isn't a real out-spoken person. He lets his desire to lead by example speak, in all things he does. Plus, he has the ability to slow the game down and anticipate what is happening in the game. He is truly a head coach on the basketball floor.”
The bond the two share, as seniors, is inevitable. Warriors at heart on the court, an unspoken agreement to communicate as veterans goes without a need to speak.
“We feel like the way we communicate and work together sets the tone for how they should,” Bradbury said. “It can get heated, but we understand it comes from a desire to win.”
Bradbury and Fleming have known each other much longer than the two years they’ve performed for the green and white.
Their earliest pairing, however, was on opposing teams in middle school.
The following summer, the young players teamed up in a summer league, a move that continued until sophomore year.
Fleming attended Ketchum until his sophomore year, when Adair became his new home.
“We were actually rivals for a long time,” said Fleming. “But when I transferred to Adair it didn't take long for the guys to accept me. They took me in as if I was already part of the team.”
Fleming said his decision to move to Warrior country was never second-guessed.
“I haven't had any regrets to this day for switching schools,” Fleming said. “Adair has accepted me as one of their own and I've experienced the great tradition they have here. I look back at the decision of switching schools and can say it's the best decision me and my family ever made.”
Fleming also cites reasons outside of sports for why he believes Adair fit him better than Ketchum.
“Adair has really pushed me to do better in both academics and athletics,” Fleming said. “Ketchum is a great school, but education-wise I think Adair has really pushed me more.”
When describing what excites them most during a game, both players’ eyes light up.
“For me, a strong block that leads to scoring,” Fleming said. “A rejection that results in a fastbreak, where I end up getting the pass for a layup is my ultimate.”
Bradbury is less specific about what gets him pumped in a game.
“Really, I just get off most on the plays where I hear the ooohs and ahhhs.”
Off the court, their bond is strong.
Away from the game, extracurricular activities differ.
Bradbury said he enjoys hunting the most, while Fleming is content spending his time in competition of different form: Video games, specifically (and enthusiastically) Call of Duty.
When it comes to music and what’s playing in their headphones pregame, the genre is the same: Hard Rock.
The ending of basketball season will not be the end for the teammates. Both will play baseball for the Warriors.
After college, their planned paths take contrasting roads.
Bradbury, who has recently visited colleges interested in the athletic services his resume affords, plans to compete in one of the many sports he’s excelled in.
Fleming’s plans involve studying optometry in college. The interest in such a field is original, without influence. There’s no family connection, story or past experience as explanation for why he’s intensely attracted to the study of the human eye. And he doesn’t need one.
“I really can’t put my finger on why I know whole-heartedly this is what I want,” Fleming said. “I’ve just always been fascinated by the human eye.”
Bradbury and Fleming demand respect in different ways. Whatever the way, they receive it from the younger team members.
However, they have earned respect from the man they say, “is an honor to play for and be taught by.” That is head coach Travis Cannady.
“From a more personal perspective, I have cherished every day that I have gotten to coach the two individuals,” said Cannady. “Their parents have raised two outstanding kids that really have a positive influence on me personally, and most definitely the community of Adair.”