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Off-road excellence: West Ranch senior loves basketball, dirt bike riding

From the court to the track, Hakeem Bradley is doing his family proud

Posted: February 12, 2009 2:11 a.m.
Updated: February 12, 2009 4:57 a.m.

An offseason with the Aim High AAU team has helped West Ranch senior forward Hakeem Bradley become a force in the Foothill League this season.

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As West Ranch senior Hakeem Bradley explodes for a thunderous dunk over an unfortunate bystander, the crowd explodes, too.

It’s his source of energy.

“Once I’m on the court, it’s time to do this,” he says. “The fans really get me into it.”

Bradley, a 6-foot-5-inch forward with athleticism to spare, is a big reason that West Ranch is in the playoff hunt this season.

His talents, however, aren’t limited to basketball, and his family is no stranger to success.

Bradley’s mother and uncle are members of Saugus’ athletic hall of fame, and his mother’s experience as a basketball player makes for interesting conversation after games.

“She always tells me, ‘Don’t let anyone go baseline! He went baseline!’” Bradley says. “She yells like crazy in the stands.”

But Bradley embraces the bar his family has set.

“I look at it as confidence to go out there and do better, because if they did it, I can do it,” he says.

Something else Bradley does is ride dirt bikes, which is his favorite activity.
   
Bradley has been riding since he was four years old, when his father brought home a broken Honda 50 motorbike and fixed it up. Bradley usually rides at Piru Motocross Park and at a friend’s track in Agua Dulce.

“I like the speed,” Bradley says. “When I’m out there, it’s like it’s all on you. No one could say this and that. It’s just riding.”

During games, Bradley hears the sound of his coaches barking orders and the crowd cheering.

Dirt bike riding is his respite.

“It’s just so fun,” says teammate Jake Wanjon, who has been riding for three years himself. “You’re totally in control. No one can tell you what to do and what not to do.”

Even though he prefers dirt bike riding, Bradley has exploded onto the basketball scene in a very short time.

Bradley only began playing basketball his sophomore year, when guard Will Tate recommended trying out. He made an immediate impression on West Ranch head coach Sean LeGaux, who was coaching his cousin Malik at the time.

“I saw this tall kid in tryouts and he’s dunking the ball, and I said, ‘Who is that?’” LeGaux recalls. “Malik said it was his cousin, so I got on Malik, ‘What the heck? How come you didn’t tell me about your cousin last year?’”

This season, Bradley is averaging 12.8 points per game, 8.6 rebounds and three assists.

One of the biggest reasons for the improvement is his time with the Aim High basketball team, a traveling Amateur Athletic Union squad that plays games in the offseason and is run by New Jersey Nets guard Vince Carter and former NBA player Kenny Smith.

“My teammate Dave Franklin told me to come try out for them,” Bradley says. “They teach you a lot of stuff. They taught me a lot of post moves, and no matter what, they told me to go up strong. Don’t be scared to get blocked, just go up.”

Quiet by nature, Bradley’s profile has gone up around the Foothill League thanks to his success on the court.

That success even prompted a name change. Bradley used to go by Gary, but he started going by Hakeem for one simple reason.

“‘Hakeem’ sounds a lot better on the intercom than ‘Gary,’” he says.

Pretty soon, Bradley will have to decide what he’s going to do after high school. Bradley stopped riding for basketball season but will start again once the season is over.

He’s looking into sponsorships for his dirt bike riding and also exploring opportunities to play basketball in college.

LeGaux is thankful that Bradley found time for the hardwood.

“Playing basketball and being successful at school has brought him out a little bit, and he’s blossomed,” LeGaux says.

jgulino@the-signal.com

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