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Zac Bradley trying to get back to 'old' self

Special Photo The Clayton State basketball poses with junior Zac Bradley after a recent practice. Bradley, a sophomore, is taking a medical redshirt while he recovers from injuries sustained in an automobile accident last spring. 

Special Photo The Clayton State basketball poses with junior Zac Bradley after a recent practice. Bradley, a sophomore, is taking a medical redshirt while he recovers from injuries sustained in an automobile accident last spring. 

Clayton State men’s basketball player Torrin Greene remembers when he and teammate Zac Bradley were playing together at North Clayton High. Greene was a senior, and Bradley was a freshman on the varsity team that reached the Class AAAA final four.

What stuck out the most for Greene about Bradley was his “perseverance and determination” not to back down to any player or situation.

Bradley, according to Greene, wasn’t afraid of a challenge.

“He was never intimidated by anything,” Greene said.

It is with that “determination and desire” that Greene feels confident that Bradley will overcome his latest challenge.

A tragic car accident last May near the Clayton State campus has left the 19-year-old Bradley paralyzed. He has limited use of his hands, but Bradley is just as determined and driven as he’s ever been.

“I’m going to get back on the court,” Bradley says.

And few people doubt he will.

“I know it will happen because of his heart,” Greene says.

This week has been dedicated as “Zac Bradley Benefit Week,” to help in his long road to recovery. Proceeds from the week-long activities, including Saturday’s home game against Edward Waters, will go toward helping raise money for Help Hope Live in honor of Bradley.

Because he gets around in an electrical wheelchair, home modifications and other expenses not covered by insurance have occurred. A fund in his name has been set up through the National Transplant Assistance Fund to help raise money.

“I’m just thankful for all the people that are willing to help,” Bradley said.

Bradley, a popular teenager on campus and in the community suffered an injury that came as a complete shock to everyone.

He was leaving the Clayton State campus on May 25 when, during a storm, a tree fell on his car.

The former North Clayton High standout was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent multiple surgeries on his brain, neck and spinal cord. He spent the summer in rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, before coming home in the fall.

“I still remember getting that call that night,” said Martisse Troup, Bradley’s high school coach at North Clayton. “I just dropped the phone. I’ll never forget that night.”

Bradley said he is not focusing on the past, but looking forward to getting back to his rehabilitation program, and re-entering school next month.

“I know everything happens for a reason,” Bradley said. “I’m still strong in my faith. I have a good support system around me. My family won’t let me be down.”

And it’s that support system that will not let him quit.

Because he recently had surgery before heading home from a four-month hospital stay, Bradley will have to wait to start rehab to allow his injuries to heal.

But he and his mother regularly do stretching exercises.

Brandon Devereux, a long-time friend, refuses to let Bradley lose that drive that earned him a full college scholarship. Because of limited use in his hands, Bradley has difficulty holding a cup.

Devereux won’t accept that.

“Whenever I ask for a cup or bottom to drink out of, he forces me to hold it,” Bradley said. “I never want to lose that drive.”

Bradley said the doctors have never told him that a full recovery wasn’t possible. It is that hope that is driving his determination.

“I’m going to give it my best shot,” Bradley said.

This winter and spring, Bradley plans to return to Clayton State, taking a full load of classes, where he ended his first year with a 3.68 grade-point average. In the meantime, he passes the day by surfing the Internet and listening to music.

“I’m ready to get back to the real world,” Bradley said.

Whenever possible, Bradley attends Lakers basketball practices and sits at the end of the bench during games.

Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons can always expect Bradley’s critique after a game.

“Zac is respected by all his teammates,” Gibbons said. “Zac was a leader as a freshman.”

Even as he lay in the hospital recovering, experiencing some setbacks, Bradley never wavered in his positive attitude,” Gibbons said.

“I never saw Zac have a bad day,” Gibbons said. “I was really down when I first found out about this, but what snapped me out of it was how well Zac was handling it. He is going to be successful no matter what.”

Said Bradley: “I want to get back to the old Zac.”

ZAC BRADLEY DAY

What: Edward Waters vs. Clayton State men’s basketball game

When: Saturday

Where: Athletics and Fitness Center, Morrow

Time: 4 p.m.

Tickets: $5, children under 12 free

Purpose: All proceeds will be donated to Help Hope Live in honor of Zac Bradley