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Ramel Bradley trying to make NBA dream a reality

Three and a half years after graduating from Kentucky, former guard Ramel Bradley is still waiting for his chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA. If his first two games of this season for his Maccabi Ashdod team of the Israel-Premier League are any indication of what to expect this year, the NBA might come calling sooner rather than later.

Bradley is scoring a league-leading 27.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting through the first two games of the season. The Brooklyn native is also averaging 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals. Bradley’s recent stellar play can be attributed to his perseverance.

“I’ve always had my sights set on the NBA,” Bradley said. “I’ve been playing pretty well over here. Hopefully everything will work out. I just have to continue to play the best basketball on the court that I can.”

Maccabi Ashdod is Bradley’s third overseas team in four years. After playing for one season in France and one season in Croatia, Bradley seems to be settling in nicely in his second season with Maccabi Ashdod.

Bouncing from team to team, Bradley has gotten used to the different lifestyles and cultures, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss Lexington and his time at UK. Offseasons allow him to go back home to New York and plan a visit to the Bluegrass State for a little catching up.

“I make sure I always get down to Kentucky and make a little visit to see some close friends, see the coaches and the new guys,” Bradley said. “Other than that I’m in New York.”

A four-year letterman at Kentucky (2005-08), Bradley’s grittiness on the court and charisma off of it quickly made him a fan favorite. Bradley played solid minutes as a freshman, helping the 2005 Wildcats reach the Elite Eight. He then went on to average 16.9 points per game and earn first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors his senior year.

It was in that senior season that Bradley fondly recalls his best memory at UK. After beating Florida in the last home game of the season, the emotions of Senior Day and the culmination of his Kentucky career made for an unforgettable scene.

Ramel Bradley never played for head coach John Calipari, but one can assume he would have thrived in the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. (photo courtesy of UK Athletics)

“After we got the win, embracing the fact that it was going to be my last game in Rupp Arena (was emotional),” Bradley said. “Taking one more look at all the fans cheering and holding up the ‘Roc’ sign.”

His successful college career helped him land his first contract in Croatia. Playing overseas has been a learning experience for Bradley, who admits that although he’s still playing the sport he loves, life as a foreigner takes some getting used to.

“The game is a lot different,” Bradley said. “The environment of the fans is also very different. Obviously being away from home takes a toll mentally. But at the end of the day basketball is just basketball.”

Growing up in Brooklyn, Bradley’s childhood dreams of NBA stardom have been the driving force behind his work ethic. His current Maccabi Ashdod campaign has some thinking that those dreams may soon be well within reach.

The longer Bradley has to wait for the NBA the less likely it will be that he’ll get a chance, but he’s hoping his overseas resume can impress scouts enough to put his basketball career on the fast track to accomplishing his lifelong goal, specifically for the New Jersey Nets. If so, all the time and hard work overseas will have paid off.

“I think every basketball player’s dream is to get to the NBA,” Bradley said. “I know with the Nets moving to Brooklyn pretty soon, that’s my goal. So I have my agent and the people around me looking to see if we can make that possible.”

While basketball may be Bradley’s main focus at the moment, his talents don’t end on the court. He also has a deep love for music.

Down time at his prep school in Bradenton, Fla., allowed him to start putting his thoughts on paper, and eventually into studio-recorded songs. In April of 2008, Bradley went on to release his first hip-hop album titled “Do You Know,” which is currently available on iTunes.

“I was by myself and had nothing else to really do so I just started jotting down a lot of my feelings and thoughts,” Bradley said. “From then it just turned into rhymes and I just continued to have this passion to do music.”

Bradley’s music interest will most likely remain as just a hobby into the near future. For now, music takes a backseat to basketball. In order to make his NBA dream a reality, Bradley is channeling all his time and focus to the sport he loves.

“Basketball is my career at the moment,” Bradley said. “I do music just because I love it and have a passion for it. If there were ever an opportunity for me to have any sort of record deal then I might reconsider it if that opportunity comes up, but right now my focus my main thing is basketball.”

Regardless of the career path he chooses, Bradley will never forget where he came from. His overseas schedule hasn’t allowed him to make it back to a Wildcats game since he graduated but he is anxiously awaiting his next visit to Rupp.  He and former teammate Joe Crawford have even set another goal for themselves besides making the NBA.

“As soon as I can I definitely want to make it back for a game,” Bradley said. “Me and Joe both want to get out there on the court and be the ‘Y.’ ”

Traveling the world while playing basketball for a living may be enough to keep most players from following their alma mater as closely as they would like, but that is not the case with Bradley. He has kept a close eye on the UK basketball program since the day he stepped off campus.

He never played for John Calipari, leaving school two years before Coach Cal was hired, but like the vast majority of UK fans, Bradley likes what he sees.

“I think Coach Cal has done an awesome job down there,” Bradley said. “Kentucky basketball has always been exciting but the way it is now is just unbelievable. He has done an incredible job. I can’t wait until the season starts, I’m so excited to see how far they’re going to go this year.”

While Bradley follows his dream and vows to keep an eye on Kentucky basketball this year, he has one request for the Big Blue Nation.

“Make sure the Big Blue Nation continues to support and look out for me,” Bradley said. “Also Joe Crawford is out here in Israel. He’s playing for another team called Maccabi Rishon. Just continue to look out for us and we will continue to represent you guys the best we can.”