By Derrick Mahone
Five years ago, Zach Bradley told his parents they would not have to pay for his college education.
The North Clayton senior made good on that promise Wednesday in the school's media center when he signed a basketball scholarship with Clayton State, a Peach Belt Conference contender.
"This is a blessing," said his mother, Senovia. "I couldn't ask for a better student and child."
After having to finance their oldest son's education at Tennessee State, Senovia and her husband, Nathan, were overjoyed at Zac's signing ceremony. In addition to being a standout on the basketball court, Bradley sports a 3.6 grade-point average.
Bradley, a 6-1 combo guard, has been a three-year starter for the Eagles. Last season, he averaged 16.2 points, two assists and eight rebounds as the Eagles finished with a 15-10 record. He also shot 75 percent from the free throw line last season. Bradley has been on the varsity since his freshman year, where he played sparingly on the team's 2006-07 team that went 23-10 and reached the Class AAAA semifinals.
"He has matured as a player all four years that he has been with us," North Clayton coach Martisse Troup said. "Zach has improved his game in some way each year. He has always had a good basketball IQ. Offensively, he has always had the ability to score. He is just a pure shooter."
He had a career-high 35 points, including the game-winning shot with six seconds remaining against Sandy Creek in 2008 at Philips Arena. Against Dutchtown last season, Bradley went 14 of 15 from the free throw line.
Bradley said he had interest from Div. I schools College of Charleston and Jacksonville, but they were taking a "wait and see" approach to the season. Instead of waiting after the season to sign, Bradley said he just wanted to concentrate on basketball and not worry about impressing college scouts this season.
At Clayton State, he will rejoin former high school teammate Torrin Greene, now a forward for the Lakers. Bradley said playing with Greene also factored into his decision.
"Clayton State is a great school with a winning program," Bradley said. "I have a good opportunity to play right away, and my parents can see me play. I was on some big schools' radar, but this is the best situation for me. I think I was more of a priority to the Clayton State staff. I didn't want to go anywhere I would be a second-hand player."
Troup realized that Bradley would be a special player when he first saw him play at North Clayton Middle School, as a center. Bradley was able to make the transition from post player to guard with the help of his AAU summer coaches. Playing as a freshman on the varsity level allowed Bradley to gain experience at a young age.
With a roster of about eight seniors, the expectations are high for the Eagles this season.
"Our goal is get back to the Final Four," Bradley said. "With the signing out the way, I can concentrate on just winning games."