Memphians Antonio Thomas Jr. and Darrell Brown Jr. returned as Bradley Braves on Dec. 3. (Photos: Terry Davis)
Terry Davis

There are only so many home-grown basketball players that can play at the University of Memphis. Some of them have to play against the Tigers.

That’s what happened when the Bradley University Braves played the Tigers on Dec. 3 – and they brought two Memphians back with them.

Bradley senior Darrell Brown, Jr. starred at Germantown while freshman Antonio Thomas Jr. played last season at East High School.

Brown has emerged as one of the leaders on the team and is Bradley’s second-leading scorer with a 12.8 point average. Thomas is getting his feet wet as a freshman and has been getting nearly eight minutes per game.

The Braves played in the NCAA tournament last season, losing to the Michigan State Spartans (76-65) in the first round of the tournament. The Braves also have a win over Kansas State this season. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway respected Bradley’s team, which is why he wanted them on the schedule.

Bradley fought hard early, but the Tigers pulled away for a 71-56 win.

Darrell Brown Jr., who played at Germantown High, goes up against Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa in the Tigers’ 71-56 win over Bradley on Dec. 3. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Brown did not have a great game in his return, shooting just 1-16 from the field, including 0-8 from the arc. He finished with four points and four rebounds to go with two steals.

“He had an off night offensively,” said Bradley head coach Brian Wardle. “Unfortunately, it was in his hometown. He is a winner and we will go to war with him any day.”

Meanwhile, Thomas scored four points in nine minutes of action.

Bradley’s Antonio Thomas Jr., who played at East High School, rises up for a jumper in the Tigers’ 71-56 win over Bradley on Dec. 3. (Photo: Terry Davis)

“It was a great experience for Antonio,” Wardle said. “Just to go out there. He did a great job. He has been playing five to ten minutes a game for us. I threw him into the fire.”

The Braves are expected to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament again this season. They are a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. Brown and Thomas would love to be spearheading the charge to the tournament for the Braves.

One of the benefits of playing in a road game in your home town that is your family can come out and support you in full force.  Antonio Thomas Sr. was sitting courtside behind the Braves bench.

“It is great. I was over there getting breathless a little bit,” Thomas Sr. said. “It is like a reunion for him. He played with a lot of the guys. He and (Tigers center) Malcolm (Dandridge) came from middle school together. Penny and I went to school together.

“I’m ecstatic to see him doing what he loves to do,” he continued. “Grades first and basketball comes later. The transition was rocky at first for him, but having Brown there helped.”