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Posted On: 08/10/18 2:16 PM
It seemed like everyone in the country became enamored with the high flying highlights of now Georgetown commit Mac McClung, and because of that Gate City’s run to the state championship was put under a microscope across the state and the nation. However, it wasn’t just Mac that contributed on the team, and it wasn’t just him that made the memories.
Behind the duo of Mac McClung and now rising senior Zac Ervin emerged a 6’2” sophomore named Bradley Dean who’s role continued to grow throughout the season. He quickly became the third option as a shooter, one of the team’s top rebounders and defenders and he often was the guy not mentioned in the highlights (although he was in a few) that made a big time impact for the Blue Devils.
It was a year that Dean sacrificed for, and says it was all worth it in the end.
“It was the best year of my life,” Dean said. “Gate City, as you know is a small town, and you grow up dreaming about a state championship. We used to be known as a football town, but we changed that really quick. It was a Cinderella story.”
“The community and the support we had around us was incredible,” he continued. “Can’t thank the coaches enough for pushing us everyday and leading us to the point where it was our decision to take the trophy home or not.”
The media hype was easy to see, but it wasn’t just that. The Gate City Blue Devils were the hottest ticket that SWVA had seen in years. I watched them twice at the Chance Harmon Classic in Floyd County and their state championship game at VCU’s Siegel Center, both which they sold out. At Floyd, the windchill that day was negative eight degrees Fahrenheit (trust me I’ll never forget it), and fans waited for over two hours outside to get in.
It was a regular occurrence at their games, and something they didn’t realize until after the season ended.
“We played in the Arby’s Classic in front of 10,000 people and the cops had to make sure no one else came in. The Ball is Life Showcase we didn’t think anyone would watch and 500,000 people tuned into it. We sort of got used to it, going home and seeing everything blow up because of Mac. Our coaches told us we wouldn’t realize how crazy it was until after the season and man were they right. We sold out every place that we went to.”
Dean may not have been the biggest name on the team, but he continually made plays when his team needed him to. He stretched the floor which allowed Mac to drive the lane, he made shots and finished in transition, he threw lobs and other good passes and he was one of the team’s best defenders throughout the season. His role continued to grow as the season went on, and it will be much, much bigger this year as Gate City looks to make another run at a state title.
“My role last year was to give about 15 and to play defense and rebound and do all of that. Over the season as teams started keying on Mac and Zac more I became the guy that when they drove I knocked down threes and that started making our offense click a little more. I also would guard the best shooter or the next best player on the other team and worked my tail off on that end too.”
“This year, I’m going to have a bigger scoring role because we will have to make up for Mac’s 40. I would say I will have to try to take on a 20-30 a game along with trying to be the best defender on the team.”
This summer with Team Loaded 16U, Dean started to make some waves among college coaches. He says he’s already heard from UMBC, Redford, UNC Asheville, Howard, Holy Cross, VMI and Drexel. As a kid who already has the ability to make shots and has a good work ethic, he’s likely to see more schools on that list as the season progresses.
“I’m a shooter that can score from anywhere and can get to the rim. I’m working on being a better leader and being more of a point guard and being more consistent at getting guys involved. I’m always working to become a better defender as well.”
Even without Mac McClung, this Gate City team is going to be talented and exciting to watch, and Dean will be a big reason why.