NIU Announces All Century Team

Updated 2/20/1982
DeKALB, IL --- Think about coaching this all-star starting line-up. Kenny Battle and T. J. Lux at forwards, Allen Rayhorn at center, and Jim Bradley and Donald Whiteside at guards. Drooled enough in anticipation?

Battle, Lux, Rayhorn, Bradley, Whiteside. That talented quintet represents the top five vote-getters on the Northern Illinois University All-Century Men's Basketball Team released Monday (January 8) in conjunction with the program's 100th Anniversary Celebration, Director of Athletics Cary Groth announced.

One of four unanimous selections on the NIU All-Century team with 29 votes, Bradley was named the Player of the Century. There was never any argument about his basketball talents. The 6-foot-10, 221-pound center-forward was "The Franchise" in two magical seasons when the Huskies won 38 of 50 games and basked in the national spotlight.

"Jim Bradley could do it all," said Northern Illinois sports information director emeritus Bud Nangle whose connections with the Huskies date back to 1938. "Hit 40 footers, dribble behind his back or through his legs, handle the ball against the press, lead the break, and pass better than someone a foot shorter."

Any player comparisons at Northern Illinois start with Bradley (East Chicago, IN / Roosevelt). The cornerstone of head coach Tom Jorgensen's Hall of Fame 21-4 club that cracked the major-college Top 20, beat No. 5-ranked Indiana, and averaged 95.2 points per game in 1971-72, No. 24 helped the Huskies smash 52 school records that winter. Even before playing in one Northern Illinois game, Bradley was featured in a full-page, four-color Sports Illustrated picture spread---posing in a cornfield wearing his No. 24 Huskie jersey and an infectious smile.

A two-time All-America pick during 1971-73, Bradley produced 1,134 points and 824 rebounds in 49 career Northern Illinois appearances. Called by many veteran observers---with apologies to Earvin Johnson---the first "Magic," he owns two of the school's three "triple-double" games in points-rebounds-assists since 1972.

"Bradley had talent," said long-time Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss, a member of the All-Century Team committee. "He had established himself as a scorer and a rebounder. It was almost like Wilt Chamberlain in the early 1970s. Now Bradley wanted to show people he could pass the ball, too. One of the first times I saw Bradley play he got eight assists. If he had stayed in the league (ABA-NBA) for a long time, Bradley would've been one of the all-time greats."

Due to NCAA sanctions and academic problems in 1973-74, Bradley bypassed his senior year with the Huskies and played with Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, and Louie Dampier on the American Basketball Association Kentucky Colonels. A year later, Kentucky won the ABA title. The game took Bradley to the ABA, CBA, France, and back to the NBA. On February 20, 1982, his dead body was found in an alley in Portland, OR.

"I think Jim Bradley was as talented a player as I ever saw," said Issel in 1982. "I mean, talent-wise, I would put him in the class of the Julius Ervings and David Thompsons of this world."

Bradley topped the Northern Illinois Player of the Century balloting with 16 votes, followed by Rayhorn (Rock City / Dakota) with four, Battle (Aurora / West) and Lux (Merrillville, IN) with two apiece, forward Paul Dawkins (Saginaw, MI), forward Matt Hicks (Aurora / West), and forward Donnell Thomas (Chicago / Robeson) with one vote apiece.

Eighty-six different Huskie players received at least one vote---including 33 Northern Illinois Hall of Famers, plus 12 performers either drafted or signed as free agents by the National Basketball Association. Guard Bobby Wood (Rockford / Central) was the first Huskie to play in the NBA with the Sheboygan Redskins in 1949, which was the same year that forward-center Dick Williams (Kirkland) had a free agent tryout with the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. A master of the set shot, Wood hit 30-of-33 shots from midcourt in his professional tryout.

Northern Illinois First-Team All-Century picks in both men's basketball and football? The most prominent would be Reino Nori (DeKalb) and George Bork (Mount Prospect / Arlington). The 5-foot-6 Nori was better known for his Prof gridiron exploits and his school-record 17 varsity letters in five sports (four in basketball during 1932-36). NIU's first National Football League roster player with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Brooklyn Dodgers, Nori proved to be an "aggressive" sparkplug in "spite of his small stature" on back-to-back Little 19 Conference cage champions in 1932-33 and 1933-34. The 6-1 Bork, a 1999 inductee info the College Football Hall of Fame, would earn team MVP, All-Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, league MVP, and All-America honors in both sports. The same right wrist that threw for 6,782 yards as a quarterback, flicked those jump shots for 1,114 career points in three Huskie seasons (1960-63).

Members of the All-Century Team will be acknowledged at halftime of the NIU-Ball State men's basketball game on Saturday (February 17) in Evans Field House. Tipoff time is 7:05 p.m. (CST). An alumni game and men's basketball reception is also set that afternoon.