4th time the charm for seniors at Radford Heralded class brings Highlanders NCAA berth

March 01, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- When the seniors on the Radford University basketball team were freshmen, Chibi Johnson and Corey Reed had dreams similar to the ones held by Division I players all over the country.

"I think they figured they'd come in and dominate the conference and go to the NCAA tournament every year," Radford coach Ron Bradley said last week. "About a dozen games ago, it hit them in the face. This is it, fellas. This is your last chance."

Until yesterday's Big South championship game against UNC-Asheville, the Highlanders had never made it this far in the conference tournament. With a 63-61 victory at the Vines Center, Radford and its seniors are going to the NCAA tournament.

One of those seniors, Kevin Robinson, made an off-balance shot with two seconds remaining as Radford (20-9) came from 17 points back to win.

N.C.-Asheville (19-9) lost its big lead early in the first half and fell behind by eight with two minutes left, but the Bulldogs tied the score at 61 on a three-pointer by Kevin Martin with 15 seconds remaining.

Johnson and Reed have had far different careers. After starting 12 of his first 14 games as a freshman, injuries and inconsistency blocked Johnson's path to stardom until the last half of his senior year. Reed has become the school's most prolific three-point shooter.

Now they are part of a team that made a tremendous second-half run this season, winning their 10th straight game yesterday. With four seniors in the starting lineup -- Johnson is the sixth man -- they know how quickly their respective careers could end.

"I don't worry about the pressure much," Reed said. "But there is a lot of anxiety. Once this is over, you're hanging up your sneakers for life."

Reed knows what the immediate future holds, and it doesn't exclude trying to play overseas. With a nearly perfect grade-point average in chemistry, Reed has a post-graduate scholarship in Virginia Tech in chemical engineering.

Johnson isn't quite sure in which direction he will go. A former "Mr. South Carolina Basketball" coming out of high school, Johnson still thinks about playing professionally or trying a career in marketing.

"We came in here classified as one of the best recruiting classes Radford had ever had," Johnson said. "We haven't done anything yet."

For Bradley, getting to the NCAA tournament is something he hadn't done since he was an assistant under both Lefty Driesell and Bob Wade at Maryland.

Now in his seventh year at Radford, Bradley is realizing his lifetime dream.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.