- Mindi Rice
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In the past two weeks, Central Michigan's future has quickly become very bright.
Crystal Bradford, the No. 15 player in the 2011 class, called coach Sue Guevara and gave her early verbal commitment to the program that is just a two-hour drive from her house.
"I just wanted to concentrate on being a student," Bradford said. "It's stressful trying to decide what college to pick. And they told me I could do my thing there."
If the 6-foot guard is allowed to "do her thing," Central Michigan will certainly become a powerhouse in the Mid-American Conference. With her speed and her ball-handling abilities, the long-limbed guard has off-the-charts moments of potential. Given the right coaching, she could harness that into near immediate success at the collegiate level.
Bradford, Scott and Bracey are as close as they come to a package deal, having played together on the court since they were 7-year-olds. All three former Detroit Community players transferred to Inkster High School during the summer and have now becoming the first three members of Guevara's 2011 incoming class.
"They're like my sisters," Bradford said. "It wasn't the biggest part of my decision [that they're also going there], but I don't even know what I would do without being on the court with them."
Their early decisions certainly helped Bradford make her final call to Guevara, hopefully ending the guard's college decision process that started in the eighth grade.
When Dwayne Scott, Bradford's club coach and Leah's father, saw her start to separate herself from her classmates, they started talking about things she should be looking for in a college program. During down time, they would take unofficial visits to colleges. She made a list of her top 20 schools of interest, then whittled it down to 10 shortly after the beginning of September, as the piles of mail started pouring in.
"It was really, I don't really know what word to use," Scott said. "It was like a circus; I felt like I was running corporate America. Answering all the e-mails and phone calls, helping Crystal and her mom go through their mail. At first she didn't want to go through it all."
She eventually narrowed her list to five: Michigan State and Central Michigan, where she was able to take unofficial visits, as well as West Virginia, Auburn and Louisville. After Scott's daughter and Bracey made their decisions, Scott says they started encouraging Bradford.
"Crystal wants to start her own legacy," Scott said. "No players from Central Michigan have gone to play in the WNBA. She was sold on the idea of getting there and setting her own legacy. She doesn't want to follow in anyone else's footsteps."
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Mindi Rice is a National High School / ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crystal Bradford, the No. 15 player in the 2011 class, said she'll attend Central Michigan. The 6-foot guard will join former Detroit Community players Leah Scott and Jas-Mine Bracey to stock the Chippewas with talent.