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Women's basketball: Bradley ready to step into lead role for UNT

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

Terriell Bradley has never been the most vocal of players throughout her decorated basketball career.

The North Texas guard often has left the task of inspiring teammates to others and let her work ethic and silky smooth jumper speak for her.

That quiet approach is one Bradley knows has to change as she prepares for a redshirt junior season with the Mean Green that begins at 3 p.m. Friday against Mid-America Christian at the Super Pit.

UNT has improved steadily in its first two seasons under Jalie Mitchell and will look to make a big jump coming off a 12-19 season. The Mean Green's hopes to reach that goal will rest largely with Bradley, who feels like she is prepared to guide her team after finding a comfort zone at UNT.

The New Orleans native spent a season at Kansas, transferred to UNT, sat out a year and began to tap into her potential last season with the Mean Green.

"Coming here was one of my better decisions in life," Bradley said. "I am comfortable here, the coaching staff is great and I really mesh well with the team."

Developing chemistry will be vital for UNT after a series of offseason injuries altered its roster. Senior guard Tyara Warren was forced to give up basketball due to a knee injury, while sophomore forward Madison Townley is out for the year with a shoulder injury.

Warren and Townley were expected to play key roles. Backup forward Hannah Hopkins is out for the year with a knee injury. Warren averaged 7.5 points last season, while Townley's 3.8 rebounds per game ranked second among UNT players.

Those losses will make it all the more important for Bradley to live up to her potential — and her billing as a preseason All-Conference USA selection.

"Terriell was shocked and appreciative, for sure," Mitchell said. "She has to make sure it lasts. You want to receive the honor at the end of the season."

Mitchell said UNT is a different team when Bradley is rebounding the ball and taking open shots when they are available.

"We had to pull her ponytail a bit to get her to shoot the ball," Mitchell said.

Bradley averaged 12.8 points and 3.7 rebounds last season despite passing up a few shots Mitchell would have liked her to take.

She'll add the responsibility of trying to bring UNT's newcomers along in a season when they will fill major rolls. Freshman Lauren Holmes scored 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Mean Green's exhibition win over TWU last week, when junior college transfer Brittany Smith added eight points and seven assists. Both started.

"We have to make sure the young players are buying in and are adjusting to the physicality and competitiveness of college basketball," Bradley said. "So far they have been doing really well."

Those young players credit Bradley with helping them adjust and prepare for tonight's season opener.

"We look to Terriell to set the tone," Smith said. "She has the most experience and is a great leader. She tells us what to do, what not to do and sets an example."

The hope is that the example Bradley sets will help UNT exceed expectations. The Mean Green were picked to finish eighth in C-USA's preseason coaches poll.

UNT tied for eighth in C-USA last season, when Bradley emerged as one of the Mean Green's top players. Tosin Mabodu played alongside Bradley before being forced to give up the game due to injury.

Mabodu has remained with UNT as a student assistant and is close to Bradley. She says Bradley is ready to take on a larger role.

"She has experience," Mabodu said. "She's ready, excited and confident heading into the season."

UNT is hoping that confidence helps the Mean Green in what suddenly looks like a transitional year. Losing Warren left Bradley as the only one of UNT's top five scorers returning.

Bradley remains confident despite UNT losing several key members of a team that finished 8-10 in C-USA play. That eight-win campaign was a significant jump from the 5-13 record UNT posted in Mitchell's first season.

"We can build on what we did last year," Bradley said. "Each year we have gotten better. With the talent we have with the newcomers, we are in position to finish really well in our conference.

"I am impressed with the new girls. Lauren Holmes really stands out."

Mitchell has been pleased with how those newcomers have meshed with Bradley and the rest of UNT's veterans.

"I am pleased with the work we are doing," Mitchell said. "We are focusing on defense and how we are going to defend and making sure everyone is on the same page. We have spent a lot of time on how we are going to get stops and win championships."

UNT will be a decided underdog in C-USA, especially after losing two key players in Warren and Townley.

UNT's goals remain lofty despite those losses in a season the Mean Green will look to Bradley to lead the way.

"This year is like every year — we want to win a conference championship," Bradley said. "With what we have, we have a really good chance to do that."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.