Interview: Ashdod’s Ramel Bradley on hoops, rhymes and life

For the 6-foot-2 Brooklyn native, Israel means something that it can’t possibly mean for too many other people.

By JACOB KANTER
January 15, 2011 22:18
4 minute read.
Ramel Bradley

Bradley 311. (photo credit: RAMEL BRADLEY has turned heads in his first year i)

 
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For someone who grew up outside of the country, Israel is often used as a stepping stone, a conduit that bridges the gap between where you came from and where you see yourself headed – spiritually and emotionally as often as professionally.

It’s a year between high school and college, it’s a place to find spiritual guidance, it’s a chance to hitch your wagon to a budding high-tech start-up.

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But for Ramel Bradley, Israel means something that it can’t possibly mean for too many other people.

The 6-foot-2 Brooklyn native is gathering steam towards the NBA, and he’s doing it at Maccabi Ashdod.

“My goal, my number one priority right now is to be back in the States and play in the NBA,” Bradley says. “I started my one-year plan. It’s about going after your dreams. Tomorrow might not be there, so if you want something you’ve got to do it right now.” And he’s serious about the timeline.

His website, dreamsmooth.com, features a countdown to the beginning of July, when the NBA summer league kicks off.

“Every day when I wake up, I think about that goal I’ve set for myself,” Bradley says, his urgency palpable. “Every practice, that’s what motivates me to get better.



And in every game, I know I have to give it my all.”

So for Bradley, Israel is a stage, and he’s in the middle of his audition.

So far, so good.

Newly-promoted Maccabi Ashdod is the surprise of the BSL so far, and Bradley is a big reason why.

The 25-year-old is second in the league in scoring at 18.4 points per game, second in steals (2.2), and second in free throw attempts (7.6) for the second-placed southerners, who, according to Bradley, have succeeded thanks to their chemistry.

“Over here, you want the best foreign players available at whatever positions you can get them.

But you have to hope that they players gel really well together,” he says. “Fortunately for us, we have gelled really well. Nobody’s selfish.”

Bradley says the wheels are in motion to make sure his one-year plan is completed by July.

“My agent, Andy Miller, told me he’s in contact with a couple of teams, but I need to focus on Maccabi Ashdod right now,” he says.

“Though just hearing news like that is a boost for my motivation.”

But for now, he’s in Israel, living a life that must be at once fulfilling and strange.

Following four years at the University of Kentucky, Bradley played at Croatia’s Cedevita Zagreb and France’s Dijon before landing in Ashdod. He’s seen a lot of European basketball in three cosmopolitan years, and says that the BSL stacks up.

“There’s a lot more talent in this league, and I think the way the league is handled – it’s very professional in terms of how the games are televised a lot more, you’ve got weekly analysis shows on TV, and it just seems like everyone I come across is a huge basketball fan,” Bradley says. “That’s what makes the league more special than in other places.” Israel wasn’t an entirely foreign entity, either.

“Being from New York with such a big Jewish community there, everyone I came in contact with told me how wonderful my time here was going to be,” he says.

The transition was also made easier by Meir Tapiro, Bradley’s teammate and one of the BSL’s wiliest veterans.

“He’s really taught me about Israeli basketball and becoming a better player,” says Bradley, who’s added a bit of Tapiro’s plodding style to his own Brooklyn-infused aggressiveness and penetration while at Ashdod.

But like every person with a dream, the picture is significantly more complex.

Brooklyn takes up a great deal of space in Bradley’s heart, and it manifests itself in his style of play as well as his second love – rapping.

“Most of the time after practice or after a game I don’t have too much to do, so I rhyme on my couch at home,” says Bradley, who has a new single, “Fly,” which is available on iTunes.

“I left for a new land all by my lonely,” he sings in it. “And the nights are lonely, but I know my momma prayin’ for her one and only.”

And that’s how Brooklyn stays with him.

“New York is always in my heart and in my mind, wherever I go,” he told me at a dinner after last week’s BSL all-star game, where he went for 26 points in the foreigners’ 122-117 loss to the Israelis.

“I’m not really into the whole ‘see the world’ thing.”

That night, Bradley turned Gan Ner into his own personal performance hall – if only for a few minutes – as he pranced around the arena, gesturing for Israeli basketball fans to put their hands up.

He looked like someone that was comfortable under the spotlight, and he attributes that quality to his days in Lexington.

“If I had to sum up my time at Kentucky in one word, it would be ‘rockstar,’” Bradley says. “Everyone wants to know where you are, everyone’s watching what you do every day.”

Now, instead of living the college life in front of 24,000 screaming fans at Rupp Arena, Bradley’s got a few loyal Ashdod supporters, his couch, a pad and a pen.

But he’s also got a dream, and he very well may be on his way to fulfilling it.

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