Long Reach's Jared Bradford has played basketball since he was 6, but when his senior season ended in March with a loss to Annapolis in the Maryland 3A East Region quarterfinals, he had little motivation to lace up his high-tops again.
There was the frustration of Long Reach's season, which started with a 13-0 run and plenty of hope but ended with a string of losses and a long bus ride home from Annapolis.
There was also the disappointment of his own play. Faced with double-teams and defenses designed to stymie his explosive first step to the basket, his averaged dipped more than five points from the start of the season.
Then there was the burnout, the cumulative effect of years of playing basketball, many times on two or three teams a season, through the summers and the fall and on holidays.
The thought of college basketball just didn't seem fun, Bradford said.
"I just felt like I didn't play as well as I could have, and I felt that maybe I didn't want to play anymore," said Bradford, who was an All-County selection during the winter after averaging 13.3 points. "I was too tired."
At the Charm City Challenge on Sunday at Towson University's Towson Center, basketball was fun again for Bradford. After enduring a three-week period in March when he didn't pick up a basketball and considered not playing in college, the rejuvenated guard scored nine points for the victorious Suburban all-stars (118-89), showcasing the sweeping drive to the basket and silky-smooth jump shot that made him a four-year varsity player for the Lightning.
"I did have a little bit to prove. I didn't realize how much I would miss playing," said Bradford, who will attend George Mason University in the fall and will attempt to walk on to the Patriots' Colonial Athletic Association team. "I wanted to show I could play as well as anybody out here. I definitely think I did that. I feel I created opportunities for my teammates as well as they did for me. That's all I really came out to do."
Glenelg Country senior Sean Rozanski, playing in his first game since breaking his thumb in February, scored 12 points and had three assists as Bradford's teammate on the suburban team.
"It was nice to get one final game in," said Rozanski, who averaged 32.2 points in 19 games this season. "It was tough to end the season the way I did, so I was happy I was able to get one more shot at being able to play high school basketball again. Now, it's just the next level for me. I have to step it up a notch."
Mount Hebron senior Shawn Velazquez, the Howard County player of the year, was selected for the team but did not attend.
Playing for the Baltimore City all-stars, Mount St. Joseph standouts Kyle O'Connor and Anthony Fair, both residents of Columbia, scored seven and 10 points, respectively.
Fair would have attended Wilde Lake if he had stayed in Howard, and O'Connor would have attended Oakland Mills.
"It's kind of disappointing that I never got to play in Howard County, but at the same time, I think I had a good opportunity to play against good teams, better teams, so I had to do it," said O'Connor, who averaged 15 points for Mount St. Joseph, which won the Baltimore Catholic League and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title this season. "I still kind of miss it, playing in front of all my friends and showing them what I can do, but it's all right."