Waiting Game: Transfers Eager To Hit Court After Redshirt Year
Bradley, McDaniel and Warren Want To Become Difference-Makers For Mean Green In 2016-17
The practice facility, a nondescript structure located in the Mean Green Village on the west side of Bonnie Brae, holds little more within its walls than a basketball court, a scorer's table, dressing rooms, and the green and white banners that celebrate North Texas basketball's past success.
But for these three student-athletes, women's basketball players that redshirted this season, the building became a sanctuary.
Each of the transfers signed with North Texas last spring, agreeing to sit out a full year per NCAA rules. Bradley, an Arlington native, played one season at Kansas, where she averaged just over 19 minutes and 6.4 points per game. For Warren, a Plano native, transferring came after averaging 2.4 points per game as a freshman at West Virginia. McDaniel, originally from Dallas, played two seasons at Minnesota but opted for a change after her minutes dropped in her sophomore season, from 16.9 to 7.2 per game.
Each saw a return to Texas as a fresh start and a chance at a bigger role.
On gamedays, when their teammates were minutes away from tipoff in another state, you could find this transfer trio putting shots up in the "E" - as its been dubbed by players and coaches since its inception in 2013. Outside from time spent on classwork, this was where to find the group.
When North Texas knocked off No. 17/18 Oklahoma in perhaps the biggest win in the program's history last November, they weren't seated behind the bench. Instead - 148 miles away - Bradley, McDaniel and Warren huddled around a television in a cramped dorm room within Mozart Hall, yelling frantically to their Mean Green teammates but knowing those cries would go unheard.
Such is life for a transfer student-athlete - and it's a reality the trio knows all too well after missing the 2015-16 campaign.
|A Year's Wait
North Texas ended its season with an 11-19 record in 2016, a significant improvement from the previous year's 5-24 mark. Almost certainly, the team's progress was correlated not only with a new coaching staff and system, but with three players that didn't register a minute in a game all season. After all, three Division I transfers are a deadly addition to any practice squad.
Even so, they are quick to point out the emotions that come with simply watching from the sideline, a spot that they enjoyed only for home contests. The group did not travel to the team's 16 games outside of Denton, forcing them to follow along via television - or worse, through social media.
"It was hard at times," McDaniel said. "They're pulling on jerseys and we're pulling on sweats. We pushed them everyday in practice but then had to sit by and watch."
One game in particular plays through Bradley's mind, a 79-73 double overtime loss to Rice on January 30 in Denton. In a game where any play could equal victory or defeat, the former Mansfield Timberview standout could envision herself catching the ball at the top of the key before darting right and sinking a mid-range jumper, a move she's pulled off countless times in intrasquad scrimmages. Instead, she was relegated to being a spectator from her seat on the North Texas bench.
"Seeing where you can contribute but not having the chance to do so was the worst part," Bradley said.
It was in those moments that the group faced its greatest struggles as transfer student-athletes.
But the three players knew their job this season was to challenge their teammates in practice at every opportunity. It's a role they didn't take lightly and, eventually, they became a formidable simulation of some of Conference USA's top talent.
Soon, the group developed a relationship and chemistry all their own.
"We're cool," McDaniel said with a laugh when asked about her bond with her transfer counterparts. "Our time together is all about getting better for ourselves and our teammates."
"We have a good relationship," Bradley added. "We've developed a chemistry on the court through playing together that has made us closer with each other and our teammates."
For now, the hope is for that chemistry to translate to increased success when these three hit the court next season.
|A Changing Culture
In many ways, Bradley, McDaniel and Warren have become a key illustration of the idea behind head coach Jalie Mitchell's team-turning culture: keep Dallas-Fort Worth's top talent at home.
In fact, without such a philosophy, the three may have not ended up in Denton at all.
McDaniel was the first to know she was coming to North Texas, even before Mitchell was hired as head coach. It was only after Mitchell took over and recruited Bradley and Warren that McDaniel officially committed to make her way to Denton.
"Knowing that I'd be in the wait with everybody else was a big part of my decision to come here," McDaniel said, drawing smiles from both Bradley and Warren.
The thought was reciprocated.
"Honestly, these girls were a main reason why I decided to come here and sit out a year," Warren said. "Knowing they would be with me for the whole ride, and the potential we have for next year made it all worth it."
For anyone familiar with high school basketball in the DFW area, it's clear what North Texas will be getting out of its three transfer players.
Bradley was a three-time all-state selection at Timberview and was ranked as high as No. 56 in the ESPN Top 100 as a senior. She was also named the No. 6 player in Texas at her position while becoming a McDonald's All-American nominee.
McDaniel went to nearby Skyline High in Dallas, averaging 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while being regarded as the team's top defender. She would graduate as the No. 57 player at her position nationally and was a former TABC all-region selection.
Warren also had her share of success with Plano West, where she turned the Wolves into perennial championship contenders. Behind 12.8 points, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game, Warren reached as high as No. 32 in the national recruit rankings.
Each of the transfers have different ideas of how their skills will translate to the team once they become key parts of the North Texas lineup in six short months.
McDaniel cites an energy - something she calls a "beast-mode mentality" - that she may bring to the court next season, while Warren thinks her speed and aggressiveness attacking the basket will pay dividends. For Bradley, its her decision-making and scoring ability that she believes will be most effective.
But no matter the individual attributes that each player offers, the goal remains the same - winning a C-USA championship.
Time will only tell if these high hopes will culminate in adding trophies to the display cases of the Super Pit, but - behind three key additions to next year's roster - North Texas women's basketball is poised for another step forward in 2016-17.
"We all bring something different to the table," McDaniel said of next season. "I feel like adding us to the mix will make us a good team. We're going to be deeper, more talented, and it's no secret that a conference championship is the team's goal."