Des Moines Area Community College's national title is bittersweet for former Mildenhall schoolboy and County Upper player Bradley Day
Bradley Day is set to return to Beck Row in the coming weeks as one of a select group of Englishmen to have been part of winning a national collegiate basketball trophy in the USA.
But the former Mildenhall Academy pupil’s experience of getting his hands on the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCCA) Division II National Championship was far from how he would have dreamt it.
With the centre having played more than he expected in his first Covid-abandoned year for Iowa-based Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), a cruel injury meant it was the opposite way round at just the wrong time.
“I was actually injured for most of the season, I had a thing called shin splints,” said the player set to celebrate his 21st birthday back in Suffolk next month.
“The coach had said I would have a big part to play this year, going from around 10 minutes a game of 40 minutes last year to 20 minutes this year.
“I got through pre-season and my shins started playing up and I had to miss most of the season as my body let me down, it was pretty tough having done all that hard work.”
In fact, he only managed one game, in the first round (last 16) of the Chicago-based National Tournament stage against Southeastern Community College.
“Getting the chance to be out there and healthier felt really good,” he said of the 90-67 success.
His lack of training on set plays and match fitness meant he was a spectator for the next three matches though, including the 86-75 final triumph over Davidson-Davie Community College for DMACC’s first ever national title.
He was still involved in the medal presentations and is waiting on their personalised rings as a permanent memento. And the trophy celebrations, being paraded through the town of Boone, is something he will always cherish.
“We got a two-police escort and it was great,” said the County Upper School Basketball Academy graduate.
But with the shin splints something he has been told he will have to learn to live with, it means he now faces an anxious time, starting with finding a programme to take him on for the next two years.
“I am just trying to be as fit and healthy as I can to go on to wherever I go on next,” he said, having spent this week looking round some options.
His former Bury St Edmunds County Upper School coach, Darren Johnson, who won DMACC’s first conference 20 years ago, has been instrumental in helping him through the challenges of the last year.
And he feels Day deserves a lot of credit for showing the resilience to get back on court.
“He got back from a very bad and sad situation with his injury to get back on the court and that is a huge achievement,” said Johnson.
“I’m immensely proud of what he has become and what he has achieved, as well as how he has achieved it.”
There has also been plenty of success to celebrate off court for Day, who only came out of school with two GCSEs, earning a 3.6 grade point average Associates degree – equivalent of a high B grade. He is currently keen on business or sports management to major in.