GATE CITY, Va. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Bradley Dean, a basketball senior on the Gate City boys basketball team.
The Gate City boys basketball team is having a pretty good season.
“We try, with our team, make every game mean that much, we’ve played in a lot of big games,” Gate City head coach Scott Vermillion said.
There’s this buzz around the Gate City basketball program, but it’s not just this year. This has been a crazy five-year stretch.
“When Mac came everybody knows that story, I think that really changed our program, it was huge for the team huge for the community and I think it put our program up another level,” Gate City senior boys basketball player Jon Compton said.
Mac McClung put a spotlight on this program and this area for high school basketball.
“It was really great, something that doesn’t happen often especially in these parts of Virginia, but we tried to enjoy every moment and draw a line around the court when the game started but it was definitely a really cool experience to have an NBA legend here,” Gate City senior boys basketball player Bradley Dean said.
That NBA legend: Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing, who recruited McClung to play for the Hoyas.
“You would never think Patrick Ewing would be coming to Gate City, Virginia but Mac put us up on that scale,” Compton said.
McClung led the Blue Devils to a state title in 2018, averaged an absurd 38 points-per-game that season, then moved on to Georgetown.
He broke the Virginia single-season scoring record, too, held by Allen Iverson, who also took his talents to Georgetown.
Zac Ervin was the next superstar, a junior on the state title team, averaged 32 points-per-game last year in his senior season, and now plays for Division-I Elon University.
But the 3rd piece of that title team was sophomore Bradley Dean, who notched 12 points-per-game that year, and is now getting his time to shine.
“Growing up with them and seeing how they handle the spotlight and all the shots and pressure of being the star player so I think that really helped me,” Dean said.
Dean is averaging 29 points-per-game this season, not too shabby!
“We’ve had a lot of great players come through here and a lot of good teams over there on the banner that went really far into the state tournament, along with Zac and Mac some really great players and teams,” Dean said.
Spending a couple years behind a couple Division-I athletes certainly helped him out.
“Oh yeah, definitely made me work a lot harder knowing competing against them everyday in practice knowing if I can score against those guys I can score against many team so I think that helped me just to work out like them and be as competitive as they are,” Dean said.
“We kinda just adopted their mindset, Mac never backed down from anybody neither did Zach and that’s kinda he put that in us,” Compton said.
Not to mention, the guy can shoot the lights out of the gym.
“The good thing about it too is he can score 30 or he can score 10 and he’s happy as long as we win so he’s used to be able to score at times and we need him to score and he’s also used to being the guy that doesn’t necessarily need to get a lot of points in,” Vermillion said, who coached the team to the state title in 2018.
Both Mac and Zac notched 2,000 career points, and Bradley is getting there too, with nearly 1,900.
“When they were sophomores, juniors, even freshmen they reached down and grabbed Brad and said ‘hey you’re coming to workouts with us’ and so Brad worked out with Mac for 3 years worked with Zac for 4 and still in the summer when they come in Brad works out with them and it’s not just a go lift type deal it’s a real workout so they spend an astronomical amount of time in the gym,” Vermillion said.
You can still feel the energy those guys left in the Gate City gym; it helped make these Blue Devils the players they are now.
“After the game we’re all on our phones on the bus watching Mac play whenever Zac’s games are on we’re down in the locker room watching so it’s really special to see guys moving on and being successful,” Dean said.
And for Bradley, he’s enjoying his chance to fill those gyms up.
“We had a lot of crazy crowds come in here and follow us to other gyms, I think most of our fans have always been here the fans that were here last year and will be here next year regardless of who’s here,” Dean said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.