Geno Ford’s Bradley program in a better spot heading into year two

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Upon taking over at Bradley last spring, head coach Geno Ford realized that there was a lot of work to be done with a program that hadn’t accomplished much since a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Sure enough that’s what happened as the Braves finished last in the Missouri Valley, going 7-25 (2-16 MVC) overall and losing 11 of their final 12 games.

But familiarity helps when it comes to building a program, and that seems to be the case with Bradley as they head into the summer.

“When you walked into our gym last spring, you knew we were going to struggle,” Ford said in an interview with Dave Reynolds of the Peoria Journal-Star. “That’s not the feeling I have this spring. Guys are starting to figure out the level of toughness they need to play with. The speed at which the workouts moved and the effort that was consistently given was much higher than (last year).

“We have freshmen who are now (going to be) sophomores and all took steps forward, which you would expect. Also, getting Will (Egolf) back and moving Shayok (Shayok) to the 4 means the bigs are working at a better rate. This spring was a step forward in the right direction.”

Leading scorer Taylor Brown departs but much of Bradley’s young nucleus that took so many beatings in 2011-12 is due back, and the return of forward Will Egolf will also help.

Egolf tore the ACL in his right knee in early June, cutting short his 2011-12 before it even began. And as Ford noted, Egolf’s return should put Shayok Shayok in a better spot.

Brown and Jordan Prosser led the way on the glass for Bradley last season, and a year of experience under his belt should help the 6-8 Shayok a great deal.

Ford and his staff will also be able to spend some time during the summer working with their players given the NCAA now allowing coaches two hours of on-court instruction during the week.

“It was a long time coming,” Ford said of the rule change. “Kids are on campus in the summer, anyway. The whole purpose is to get ’em acclimated. So having access to coaches seems like a good idea.

How much better will Bradley be in 2012-13? That remains to be seen, especially in a tough league like the MVC.

But unlike last spring it doesn’t seem as if the rest of the Valley is getting a head start.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Report: Four-star center reclassifying to 2015; down to three

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An interesting recruiting development hit on Friday as Josh Gershon of reported that four-star center Jayce Johnson is reclassifying to the Class of 2015 and looking to join a program at semester break.

The 7-foot native of California is down to Cal, Colorado and Utah and Johnson is on an official visit to Utah this weekend after transferring to a charter school this week. As Gershon notes, only Cal has a scholarship to offer Johnson this season, but the family is willing to pay a semester at the other programs if it’s the right fit. Johnson would like to redshirt and train with his future college while playing against more mature players.

But if Johnson is persuaded not to redshirt, he could be an intriguing big man off the bench later in the season for a couple of teams looking to make a postseason appearance. As the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson is a talented prospect and he isn’t afraid to score with either hand. With some time to fill out, Johnson can turn into a talented Pac-12 player down the road.

VIDEO: Utah Valley’s Mark Pope dances, lip syncs with daughters

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New Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope made quite an impression on fans at the team’s Midnight Madness celebration last night. That’s because Pope did a dance and lip sync routine with his four daughters that turned out to be pretty impressive.

The former BYU assistant looks to be the leader in the clubhouse for best coach dance so far this preseason. We’ll see if any other coaches pull out elaborate routines at madness celebrations the next few weeks.