As a Lyman Lady Eagle, McKinley Bradshaw had an unparalleled high school career on the hardwood, earning All-State honors all four years, as well as being named the Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018.
No slouch in other sports, Bradshaw was also a three-time All-State player in volleyball and a four-time state champion in the high jump — an astonishing 11 All-State honors by the end of her prep career.
With a slew of colleges to choose from, Bradshaw opted to stay at home, signing with the University of Wyoming to play hoops for head coach Gerald Mattinson.
“I definitely made the right choice,” Bradshaw said of her decision to become a Cowgirl. “It’s great, I’ve learned so much coming to the University of Wyoming. I’m being coached by such great coaches.”
Through 16 games this season, the freshman is averaging almost 17 minutes and 5.8 points per game; she’s scored in double figures four times, including a 26-point performance against Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 12.
“We all were just playing well, it was just a fun game,” Bradshaw said of the game against the Devilettes. “And the ball just went in.”
Not a bad start for the Bridger Valley native, who said she thinks her season is going “pretty well.” The Cowgirls (8-9, 4-4 in Mountain West) squared off against San Diego State on Wednesday.
“We haven’t been performing to our best lately, and I hope that can change here in the next few games,” Bradshaw said. “Hopefully we can turn our season around and start winning more games. But for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”
The transition from high school to college can be an eye-opener for any athlete; asked what she found to be the biggest difference between the two, Bradshaw didn’t hesitate.
“It would definitely have to be the speed of the game,” she said. “I’m learning so much more than I ever did in high school.”
That said, Bradshaw still keeps in touch with Jason Hansen, her former coach at Lyman High School.
“I just miss Coach Hansen’s confidence and positivity,” she explained. “He was always just a fun guy — he didn’t make every game feel like it was super-important, but we always knew it was. He’s just a great coach.”
For Hansen, the admiration is mutual.
“McKinley was just a great teammate,” he said. “She was the type of girl that probably could have scored 30 points every night, but she wanted to get her team involved. Winning was more important to her than individual accolades. She’d run through brick walls for you. Every time you went into a game, you thought you had a chance with her on your team.”
Hansen said he checks in on Bradshaw from time to time, just to see how things are going; when his former player went into a shooting slump earlier this season, he good-naturedly offered up his coaching services.
“I called and asked, ‘Do you need me to come down and look at your shot?’” he said, laughing. “She just kind of laughed, and the next game she went for 26 points. She sent me a text afterward that said, ‘Well, it looks like we just had to talk.’”
As a Lady Eagle, Bradshaw played with a group of girls she’d known most of her life; as a Cowgirl, she now has teammates from all over, including Turkey and Croatia.
“I’m enjoying my teammates and getting to know them, building relationships with them,” she said. “Playing has been really fun too. It’s definitely been different — my high school team, I grew up with those girls, we’d played since middle school together. Coming here and not knowing anyone, it was different. But I feel like we all get along really well.”
Bradshaw is also getting high marks from her new coach, who said the 5’11” guard is a player to watch in the future.
“As a freshman, McKinley has done a great job, both on and off the court,” Mattinson said. “Off the court, she’s got a great personality, she fits in well with all of our kids. She’s just somebody for the rest of the team that’s fun to be around. She has a dry sense of humor, and everybody enjoys that...The last few games she’s back to being aggressive offensively, she’s rebounding — those things are taking care of itself. I think her future is going to be very bright.”
Bradshaw played almost 20 minutes in each of her last two games, an 83-59 win over Nevada and a 89-59 loss at Fresno State, scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively. As her minutes continue to increase, she said she will keep trying to make the most of each opportunity.
“Every time coach [Mattinson] puts me in, I just try to have that confidence that he’s putting me in for a reason and that he knows what he’s doing,” she said. “When I go in, I just try to play as hard as I can and do what I can to contribute to the team.”