Birmingham, Ala. — Shortly after Maryland defeated West Virginia in their NCAA tournament opener on Thursday, Terrapins guard Noah Batchelor had a message for Alabama guard Jaden Bradley.
“You have to win this next game,” Bacheler told his former IMG Academy teammate, “so we can play on Saturday.”
Top-seeded Alabama and No. 8-seeded Maryland were both placed in the South Bracket, a feud between the close friends ever since. After Maryland’s win over West Virginia, Bradley and the Crimson Tide took care of their half of the equation, solidifying the performance of rushing possessions behind Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“After he won, he called me up and started talking a little smack,” Batchelor said. “It’s all friendly talk. He was just saying how they will beat us, but I think otherwise.
The friendship will be temporarily put on the shelf on Saturday night as Batchelor and Bradley head off for a trip to the Sweet 16 at 8:40 p.m. inside Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. However, regardless of the outcome, the two friends share a healthy respect for each other.
“He’s my guy, we’re really close,” Bradley said of Batchelor. “We were together at IMG for two years. We’ve been through a lot, so we still message and keep in touch.”
Bradley and Batchelor keep in touch through an IMG Academy group lesson that also includes Houston forward Jerez Walker, Baylor guard Keonte George and Michigan forward Jett Howard, among other stars. Together, the former teammates have helped each other navigate through their freshman seasons at the college level.
“Whenever anyone needs something, we’re always there for each other,” Bradley said. “We are always a call away, a text away. We’ve got each other’s backs. We watch each other play, criticize each other, give each other advice, praise each other.
While Bradley and The Bachelor’s roads are set to cross on Saturday, they’ve begun to walk separate paths for their college careers.
Bradley, a McDonald’s All-American, was named to the SEC All-Freshman team earlier this month. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound point guard has started 22 games for Alabama in more than 35 appearances and is averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 assists per game.
“He’s a great facilitator, and he also likes to find his teammates in transition or on the pick-and-roll,” Batchelor said. “He’s a really good player. He knows the game, he has a really good IQ.”
Batchelor, on the other hand, has made just one start in 21 games for Maryland and is averaging 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds. Still, Bradley believes there is more to come from his former teammate.
“His biggest thing for me is telling me to keep going,” Bachelor said. “My opportunity is coming soon, so he’s telling me to be ready for the next steps.”
Bradley is rooting for that breakout, but hopes it comes next season instead of Saturday against Alabama.
“He’s an elite shooter,” Bradley said of Batchelor. “He’s definitely a sniper. He’s athletic, can get to the hole and can defend. I’ve watched a few of his games this season and seen him out there. He’s a great player and I look forward to seeing him again.” Looking forward to seeing you on the court.”