March Hoops Magic Continues to Connect Bradford Family

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 26, 2021

Bear Lake – Check. Onekama? You bet. Traverse City West? Yup.

Glen Lake? Absolutely!

Chances are if you played basketball at one of these schools over the last decade or so, you were coached by a very special educator named Bradford. Perhaps not the same Bradford, but it definitely was a member of the Onekama-raised family with a long line of special education teachers.

While growing up on the farm of parents Arden and Lynn in Onekama, the future educators picked up the love of the game of basketball. Some went on to play college ball, and all reportedly did some coaching.

March Madness has always been a lot of fun in the Bradford family.

“Our family has had a lot of success in March Madness, and it is fun to be able to talk about it with each other and with our kids,” said Nathan Bradford, currently the boys basketball coach, athletic director and special ed teacher at Onekama.  “As a player, I also played at the Breslin Center and in the state Semifinals.  

“It was an experience that I will never forget,” he continued. “My sisters have also made it to the state Semifinals.”

Nick Bradford joined Nathan’s staff as the junior varsity boys coach. The Portagers ended their season Thursday night with a hard-fought loss to Brethren after leading most of the way.

One of the sisters, April, had a long run as the Bear Lake girls coach. She still teaches special ed there.

Maple City Glen Lake girls basketballJason Bradford, whose undefeated Glen Lake girls squad plays for the District championship tonight against Elk Rapids, has fond memories of March Madness on the Bradford farm.

“The one that got into it the most was probably Nate,” Jason said. “We’d go back and forth picking different teams.”  

“We were on the living room floor cheering – it was a friendly competitive thing,” he continued. “We were Michigan State fans. Whenever they were in the mix, we were always cheering for them.”

While the father of five doesn’t have the Spartans to root on any longer this year, he does have the Lakers. All the Bradfords will likely be cheering on the Lakers as they try to move on from last season’s abrupt end.

Jason’s oldest son, J.J., is now a freshman in college. He saw his senior season at Glen Lake come to an end with the pandemic outbreak halting tournament play last March as he was preparing for a District Final game.  

His daughters, Grace, now a junior, and Maddie, a sophomore, advanced to the Regional Final against Manton last year and were pretty much boarding the bus when things stopped.

Season-ending losses have always caused sleep deprivation for Jason. They have a bigger impact when his own kids are on the team.

“It might be tougher on them,” Jason acknowledged. “Maybe I put more pressure on them. (The season ending) still hurts, but you learn to deal with it.  

“You want the success for them,” he continued.  “Maybe I am a little more anxious for games ... it’s the pressure.”

But it is a great and fun time of year, Nathan noted.

“I always look at throwing records aside and showing up, giving it your all because you always have a chance to win during tournaments,” he said. “I have experienced both ends of the spectrum with teams with high expectations and getting upset and teams with nothing to lose and making a run.  

Bradford family“You always hope your team is peaking at the right time and you can advance in the tournaments.”

Jason and Nathan have never coached against each other. They both have young boys so that could change. The sibling rivalry has presented some competitiveness.

Bradford family 2They started coaching girls varsity basketball the same year and their teams were in different conferences at the time. Nathan moved to boys before Onekama and Glen Lake competed against each other in the Northwest Conference.

“We always set up a few (girls) scrimmages and I have to admit that Jason usually got the better of me at that time,” Nathan said. “I would say we really help each other out and talk coaching strategies quite a bit.  

“Usually after games we call each other and get the run down on each other's games,” Nathan added. “It helps having another sibling in the family that coaches a varsity sport to talk to and bounce things off of.”

The summer breaks helped lure the Bradfords into teaching so they could help out on the farm. Their upbringing paved their way. Coaching is a bonus.   

“While playing I always thought that it would be great to give back to the sport that gave me so many opportunities, and this led to me wanting to become a teacher and a coach,” Jason said. “Our dad taught us great work ethic and discipline growing up on a farm. Our mom is the most patient and caring individual you can meet and would do anything to help another individual.”

Tonight Glen Lake will take the floor without three seniors from last year’s team but with a lot more experience Jason hopes that bodes well for the Lakers.

“I feel we have a little more depth,” he pointed out. “We’re another year older, and it helps with confidence too.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Nathan Bradford (kneeling) and assistant and brother Nick Bradford huddle with their Onekama boys basketball team this season. (Middle) Jason Bradford guides his Maple City Glen Lake girls basketball team through an inbounds scenario, with daughters Grace inbounding and Maddie setting up to receive the pass. (Below) Clockwise from top left, Nick Bradford, Nathan Bradford, Grace Bradford, Jason Bradford and Maddie Bradford. (Onekama photos by Paul Cunningham. Glen Lake photos by Liz Moeggenberg.)

Title IX at 50: Ruby Whitehorn's Story

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

October 4, 2022

We finish our “Title IX at 50” this week highlighting the latest Detroit Edison basketball star – who will no doubt continue to dazzle now that she’s moved on to the college ranks.

Ruby Whitehorn became the fourth-straight Miss Basketball Award winner from Edison last winter on the way to leading the Pioneers to the Division 2 championship. The 6-foot guard also was a contributor off the bench as a freshman when Edison won the Division 2 title in 2019, and the Pioneers were 23-0 in 2020 when that season was ended due to COVID-19.

Edison was 80-4 total over her four seasons on varsity. Whitehorn is continuing her career at Clemson University.

"It means everything to me, but it’s because of everyone who got me to this point – my coaches and teammates and (everyone else).

"They’ve just helped me along the way, and it feels good to give back to them."

The MHSAA will conclude its yearlong celebration of Title IX with this weekend’s 25th Women in Sports Leadership Conference in Lansing. The event remains the first, largest and longest-running of its kind in the country.

This year’s conference is themed “Power of the Past – Force of the Future” and is again sold out, as Crowne Plaza Lansing West will be filled Sunday and Monday mostly by Michigan high school female student-athletes but also administrators, coaches, officials, trainers and others who contribute to school sports.

Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.

Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights

Sept. 27: Eliana Bommarito's Story - Read
Sept. 20:
Anna Tracey's Story - Read
Sept. 13:
Lola Korpi's Story - Read
Sept. 6:
Meah Bajt's Story - Read
Aug. 30: 
Morgan Brunner's Story - Read
Aug. 23:
Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16:
Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9:
Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2:
Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26:
Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19:
Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12:
Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5:
Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28:
Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: 
We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: 
Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: 
From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: 
Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read

May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: 
Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: 
Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: 
Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: 
Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: 
Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: 
Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: 
Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: 
Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: 
Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 
28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: 
Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: 
Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: 
Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: 
Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: 
Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: 
Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: 
Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: 
Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: 
Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: 
Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read