Lake Norman & Mooresville

7th-grader plays beyond her years for Patriots

Alexas Bradford didn't expect to make the Davidson Day varsity girls' basketball team, much less start for the Patriots while leading them in scoring and assists.

But the seventh-grader has surpassed those expectations to make a large impact for her team.

Davidson Day coach Jessica Mitchell, who admits she was also surprised by Bradford, said her point guard's biggest contribution to the team has been her competitive spirit.

"She does not care who scores, who gets the assists, who gets the steals, as long as at the end of the game we have more points than the other team," said Mitchell, adding that she's also been impressed with Bradford's work ethic.

"That's the kind of fire that's going to spark other kids to be the same way."

Bradford admits she was nervous when she tried out and eventually made the varsity squad.

"Being a seventh-grader and playing with high school girls, I thought some high schoolers would be mean, but they really are nice," she said.

Despite being only 12, Bradford, who averages more than 11 points and 3 steals a game for the Patriots, exhibits a lot of toughness on the court.

"I've seen her run over 17-year-olds," said Mitchell. "There's no fear in her."

Bradford said she pushes herself to play at a high level.

"When I play basketball I feel confident," she said. "I don't really feel nervous. I just play from the heart."

The 5-foot-2 Bradford drives the basket against players a foot taller without any hesitation, not being intimidated by older players.

"When I play other teams, I'm thinking 'I'm in seventh-grade, but I'm also going to cross you off and show you off,'" she said.

Being so young, Bradford also has had to endured the physical style of high school basketball.

"There's a big difference between a seventh-grade body and a 12th-grade body," said Mitchell. "Hits that she takes every game hurt a little more because she's just smaller. When she gets hit, she goes a little farther."

Despite that, Bradford texts Mitchell to ask if she can get into the gym before practice to shoot around.

"That mentality is what I need," said Mitchell. "I need 12 kids like that every day."

The young Patriots (3-9) start three players sophomore and younger, so Mitchell and the team have had to play through some growing pains.

"Every day is a work in progress," said Mitchell. "But they're learning a lot of things this year."

The first-year coach has seen some encouraging signs, as the team has stayed in most of their games, losing four games by a combined 11 points, after being blown out often in last year's 2-17 season.

Bradford, who hopes to improve her game during the offseason, said she's been surprised by how far her Patriots have come.

"We're becoming a team - getting to know each other and our strengths and weaknesses, so we can work on them and get better."