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JERRY CROWE / CROWE'S NEST

Kevin Bradshaw set an NCAA record that, to some, wasn't made to be broken

Nineteen years ago, Bradshaw scored 72 points for U.S. International against Loyola Marymount, breaking a record held by Pete Maravich. The reaction his feat generated was surprisingly negative.

February 22, 2010|Jerry Crowe

From San Diego — No other player in college basketball history scored more points against a Division I opponent.

Not Wilt Chamberlain.

Not Oscar Robertson.

Not Pete Maravich.

And yet when Kevin Bradshaw of U.S. International scored an eye-popping 72 points against Loyola Marymount on Jan. 5, 1991, the initial reaction was surprisingly negative.

Made to feel as if his accomplishment should be castigated rather than celebrated, he even got hate mail.

Who was he, went the haters' line of thinking, to claim a record belonging to the great Pistol Pete Maravich?

"I didn't get it," Bradshaw says.

Before that early January evening 19 years ago, he notes, he'd never even heard of Pete Maravich.

A 6-foot-5 senior guard from Gainesville, Fla., Bradshaw was in the process of remaking his life after a series of missteps.

Though not yet 25 years old, he was already a father, a Navy veteran and, a few years earlier, a college dropout.

His marriage had been annulled.

At USIU, his love of basketball rekindled and a newfound appreciation for education taking hold, Bradshaw was on his way to a national scoring title while playing for an unknown San Diego school that weeks earlier had filed for bankruptcy.

USIU had disbanded its athletic department but was allowing the basketball team to finish out the season, such as it was.

The ragtag Gulls, who played at the same breakneck pace made popular in earlier seasons at Loyola by Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble and Paul Westhead, fell to 1-16 by losing at LMU, 186-140. But Bradshaw eclipsed Maravich's record of 69 points by making 23 of 59 shots from the field and 19 of 23 free throws.

His offensive explosion then put him on the defensive.

"It was the craziest thing," Bradshaw, 44, says during an interview at Point Loma Nazarene University, where he is an assistant basketball coach. "I had lived a certain rebel lifestyle when I was younger, but I had changed my life around -- good student, on course to graduate, no drugs, no alcohol -- and then I get all this backlash for breaking a record.

"I said to friends, 'I'm getting more bad attention now than when I was doing bad stuff,' and that confused me. Where was this coming from? I felt like I was supposed to apologize."

Though Bradshaw is African American and the late Maravich was white, both Bradshaw and his USIU coach, Gary Zarecky, say the verbal attacks were not racially motivated.

Rather, Zarecky notes, basketball purists dismissed the Gulls' run-and-gun style as "junk ball" and scoffed at a no-name player from a no-name school claiming Maravich's record.

"We were fighting the Establishment," Zarecky says. "I actually had coaches not shake my hand after games."

Like Maravich, who starred at Louisiana State, Bradshaw might have played in the Southeastern Conference under different circumstances.

Instead, the former Florida state player of the year spurned his hometown Florida Gators and wound up at tiny Bethune-Cookman, where he quickly got himself into trouble.

Informed that he was flunking out of school, Bradshaw married his pregnant girlfriend, joined the Navy to support his family and, the day after his wedding, left for basic training in San Diego. His wife, he says, was expected to rejoin him in California but never showed up. Their brief union was annulled.

In the Navy, Bradshaw says he didn't touch a basketball for a year before joining friends in a pickup game. Before long, he had joined David Robinson on the touring All-Navy team, catching the eye of Zarecky and other college coaches.

Zarecky convinced Bradshaw to enroll at USIU, where in 1989-90 he finished second in the nation in scoring.

In his record-breaking game, Bradshaw played all 40 minutes and actually lost a point because of a scoring discrepancy. With 1:27 to play, he made two free throws to break the record that had been set by Maravich in an overtime loss to Alabama in 1970.

The aftermath, Bradshaw says, left him embittered, a feeling that only intensified when he was not taken in the NBA draft.

"As silly as it may sound, I was frustrated with basketball," says Bradshaw, who stayed in school another year to complete work on his degree. "I figured I would never play ball again."

An offer to play professionally overseas changed Bradshaw's mind and he wound up spending 16 years in Israel, playing for 12 and coaching after that. In one game, Bradshaw says, he scored 101 points -- "and we actually won the game."

In 2008, Bradshaw moved back to San Diego with his Israeli wife, Karen, and their young son. He has another son, also named Kevin Bradshaw, who is a 6-8 sophomore center at Riverside City College and a UC Riverside signee.

In addition to coaching at Point Loma Nazarene, Bradshaw teaches physical education at a San Diego high school.

It saddens him that USIU is gone. (The school is now known as Alliant University, which is how Bradshaw's affiliation is listed in the official NCAA basketball record book.)

And he still wonders about the reaction to his record.

"It doesn't make sense to me," Bradshaw says. "A kid goes out and does something like that, why not pat him on the back? You can have your opinion, but don't make it ugly.

"The next guy who scores 72 or 73 points, they'll probably build a statue of him."

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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