BRADFORD – Bradford first-year boys basketball coach Mackenzie Perry says the obvious question is the wrong one.
Perry didn’t hesitate to take over a program that finished 0-23 a year ago.
“I don’t think the question is why?” Perry responded with a big smile. “For me, the question is why not?”
Spend two minutes talking to Perry and it is easy to understand why he was the perfect choice to begin the turnaround with the Bradford program. Is enthusiasm is exactly what a young team needed.
“I have coached with Z (Ray Zawadzki Jr.) the last three years at Troy Christian,” Perry said about a program that has turned into a Division IV power under Zawadzki, including one trip to the state final four. “It is going to be a lot, lot different, but I like the challenge.”
And he likes what he has seen.
“I think it has been very positive,” Perry said. “These kids have a great attitude.”
And if the football team was any indication – and Perry hopes it was since he has a number of those kids on the team – there is plenty to be excited about.
After not having a varsity program a year ago, Nathan Hyatt led the Railroaders to four wins in his first year with that program.
“They tell me around here that the basketball team does what the football team does,” Perry said. “So, I hope that is true. I think these kids are hungry for success.”
And Perry has been waiting for this moment since he took the job in June.
“I asked Coach Z (Zawadzki) about me being a head coach, and he was very supportive,” Perry said. “I applied to several schools, and Bradford hired me in June.”
The Roader roster is small – but not without talent.
Drew Patty, a 6-foot-4 post, is the lone senior and a three-year starter in the program.
Alex Swabb is a 5-6 junior while the sophomores include 6-2 Josh Phillips, 6-0 Andy Branson, 5-8 Dialaquan Millhouse and 5-8 Parker Smith.
Splitting time between junior varsity and varsity will be juniors Walker Branson (6-1), Chase Kenworthy (6-1) and Mason Justice (5-9).
“I expect a lot from all my players,” Perry said. “Drew (Patty) is my lone senior, and he has shown a lot of leadership qualities. One of the things I told the kids is they are really not that far off. There are just a few things we need to do differently.”
With six full-time varsity players, Perry knows there are times that can change the way they play.
“We want to push the ball in transition when it is there.” Perry said. “But, we have to be smart about it. We talk all the time about no hand-checking and pushing, things like that. I think the players are starting to understand.”
He is already pointing to Friday’s opener with Ansonia.
“That is a big game for us,” he said. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We really feel like we can get it done that night. We just need to trust the process. And if not, we have to come back and be ready to do the same thing in the next game.”
Perry knows there will be growing pains in building a program.
“There are going to be ups and downs –it is a long season,” he said. “Attitude is everything. It is very important for me to praise them for all the little things they are doing well. One of the most important things was putting an excellent coaching and support system in place, and we have done that.”
Perry knows there will be no easy games in the Cross County Conference.
“I think it is probably the second best small school conference around after the MAC,” he said. “You have Tri-Village and Miami East, but I also see a lot of strength in the middle. I think Bethel and Arcanum are ready to make a big jump. Newton did well last year.”
And Perry doesn’t rule his team out of anything.
“With the right work and improvement, I think we can be right in there,” he said. “I told is these guys, I think this year is going to be the beginning of a turning point in the Bradford basketball program.”
As he said about taking the job, why not?
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.