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Martinez, Bradbury receive top honors

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TOP COACH: Taylor women’s basketball coach Jody Martinez guided the Trojans to a 30-5 record, the first Crossroads League regular season and tournament titles in program history along with advancing the team into the final eight of the NAIA Division II national tournament in his second season in Upland. Martinez wasnamed the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s NAIA National Coach of the Year on Tuesday.
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TOP TROJAN: Taylor senior Kendall Bradbury finished her historic career in Upland as the all-time leading scorer in program and Crossroads League history. She ledthe Trojans to a record-setting 30-win season along with first-ever league regular season and tourney championships.Brabury was named afirst team all-American in NAIA DII as well as from the WBCA.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Jody Martinez and Kendall Bradbury were a synonymous part of Taylor University’s historic women’s basketball season, and both have received major honors.

Martinez, the Trojans’ second-year coach, was bestowed with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NAIA National Coach of the Year, it was announced Wednesday afternoon. The award encompasses both Division I and Division II teams.

Bradbury, NAIA DII’s leading scorer, was recognized with a spot on the 16-member WBCA’s All-America team released Tuesday. The honor included both divisions and Bradbury was one of three players from DII selected to the team.

Taylor finished with a program record 30 victories against five defeats and won Crossroads League regular season and postseason tournament championships in the same season for the first time in school history. The Trojans advanced to the elite eight of the NAIA DII National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa for just the second-time ever.

“If my record was 5-30 I’m not even nominated,” Martinez said Wednesday afternoon. “I got to give the players credit for being 30-5 and having a 22-game winning streak and making a lot of history here winning the regular season and the tournament for the first time.

“It was kind of neat there were only two NAIA Division II coaches in the final round (of balloting) and the rest of them were Division I coaches, and out of that group to be selected is quite an honor for the Taylor program,” he added.

The WBCA also recognizes top coaches in the NCAA DI to III, junior college and high school levels and the recipients will be honored at a banquet April 5 in Tampa, Florida, in conjunction with the women’s NCAA Final Four.

The 50-year-old Martinez previously was a finalist for the award following the 2007-08 season when he was at Bethel College. He has been a head women’s coach in 19 of his 28 years in the profession and compiled a 463-200 overall record with stops at Bethel, Southeastern (Florida) and Taylor.

Martinez took over a Taylor team in 2017-18 that was 13-18 the previous years and was the third coach in as many seasons. Under his guidance, the Trojans finished 24-11, were ranked No. 15 nationally and was invited to the DII national tournament.

“The team I was inheriting I watched on film and there were so many weaknesses, offensively and defensively,” Martinez said. “I thought last year was more of my challenge year to build a foundation and I believe last year’s team really springboarded to the success of this year’s team.”

Taylor was ranked No. 6 in the final DII Top 25 and after reaching the elite eight was eliminated 75-62 to Dakota Wesleyan University, the 2018 national champs. Martinez said he believed the Trojans were capable of everything they accomplished this season.   

“I always expect my teams to compete and be one of the top teams in the conference,” he said. “I truly believed this year we had the potential to win the conference and also believed we were going to be a top 15 team in the nation, so to finish sixth is a credit to the players.”

Bradbury credited her teammates and Martinez with her first WBCA All-American honor. The 5-foot-11 senior from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, also should be named an NAIA all-American when the team is formally announced today.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m thankful for it,” Bradbury said Wednesday. “All the individual accolades are great, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They have done so much for me over these four years and played such a great role.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for thinking highly about how I played all year, but it’s super exciting,” she added.

After leading NAIA DII in scoring last year, Bradbury backed it up with another season where she ranked No. 1 with a 22.8-point average. She also was among the nation’s leaders in rebounds at 9.1 per game and shot 48 percent from the floor and 87 percent at the free throw line.

Before Martinez arrived in Upland, Bradbury said she was thinking seriously about leaving and returning home. Taylor had endured two losing seasons and Bradbury said basketball no longer was fun.

“I had no passion or love for the game anymore, and then Coach and his wife (Sonya) came in and totally changed our culture and reignited passion and love for basketball,” Bradbury said. “They also brought out a love for each other and playing for one another and playing for something bigger than ourselves.

“He’s such a goofy guy and makes things so much more fun when he’s around. But when it’s time to be serious we are serious and get stuff done, she added. “He brings a competitive and intense edge to the game that I felt was what we needed.He put it all together and led us and he’s done an incredible job of over the past two years.”

Late in the season, Bradbury overtook Natalie Young to become the Crossroads League all-time leading women’s basketball scorer. Young currently is a Taylor assistant coach and starred for Martinez’ Bethel teams from 2004-08.

“To be the coach of the top two scorers in Crossroads League history is a pretty awesome blessing,” Martinez said. “Both of them were unique on offense and defense and totally different type of players. Kendall’s advantage was she could shoot the ‘3’ and Natalie didn’t because she was surrounded by people who could shoot it.”

As she was chasing down the scoring record, Bradbury said Young was among her biggest boosters.

“When (Young) told me I was close to breaking her record I was in awe and dumbfounded,” Bradbury said. “I never thought she would be my assistant coach and I would break her record and she would be on the sidelines. But the cool thing was she was rooting for me to do it, she wasn’t dreading that I would break her record.

“She just wanted what was best for me and that was so inspiring having her on the bench knowing that she believed in me to get it done,” she added. “She’d say ‘you’re the best player in the country and there’s no other player who can hang with you on the court’. When somebody believes in you so much you want to make them proud, and I think she was proud of me for breaking her record.”

Bradbury also will join Martinez in Florida in early April where she will attend a tryout camp for European women’s basketball leagues. Martinez said Bradbury’s offensive skills make her an attractive player teams should covet.

“If I wasn’t confident I don’t think I would be going,” Bradbury said. “Coach (Martinez) has had so much confidence in me the past two years and that’s helped me get confidence back ... I still feel like I’m at the peak of my performance level and I can give it another year or two. I’m super excited about the next opportunity to come.”