All across the country, high school seniors are trying to wrap their heads around having their final seasons taken away from them by this invisible enemy known as COVID-19, but Litchfield senior Brady Bishop got a taste of this feeling well before the word coronavirus was ever even a thought in anyone’s mind.
After being a solid number two for the Panthers in his junior year, the 2019-2020 basketball season was going to be Bishop’s time to shine.
“We played a lot of games last summer with only seven or eight guys,” Coach Drew Logan said. “Going against Harrisburg and Murphysboro and all of these good schools, Brady really proved that he could be that guy and be the main focus, even though the other team knew he was the main focus.”
This wasn’t by accident. Logan said that Bishop had come to him early in his high school career and asked what he needed to do to play at the varsity level.
“He had that goal for himself early in his career that he wanted to play at the collegiate level,” Logan explained. “The biggest thing for him was his work ethic and the amount of stuff he did on his own from his sophomore year on was pretty impressive.”
Bishop traveled to showcases, did private training and worked with teammate Sam Painter, who has gone on to play for Illinois Wesleyan after graduating in 2019. As Logan said, he “flipped the switch” in regards to wanting to do something and putting in the work to actually make it happen.
“Every kid puts the time in during the season, but he really put in a lot of time,” Logan said. “Not only the required time, but all of the stuff he did on his own. That’s what broke my heart.”
Right when Bishop was poised to take over as the Panthers go-to guy, disaster struck. He suffered an injury just before the start of the season that turned out to be a broken ankle and kept him out of 17 games in his senior year. The injury cost him playing time, it cost him points, but the big question was, would it cost him his dream of playing in college.
“I talked to his dad a lot and we discussed that you hope that this doesn’t affect him playing at the next level,” Logan said. “The year before Sam kind of ran the show and Brady was the second guy. You wonder if teams were waiting for him to step out and be the guy. I tried to contact a few of the coaches and make the point that he is that guy.”
Despite the tough hand he was dealt, Logan said Bishop handled it better than most would, and even better than those close to the situation.
“He probably handled it better than I did. When he went down, I felt terrible,” Logan explained. “I’ve never been around a kid who handled an adversity like that with a smile on his face and with the kind of leadership mentality that he showed, as far as supporting his teammates and being a good teammate on the bench and in practice.”
In short, he handled it as well as any 17-year-old kid can ever handle something like having one of the things you love most ripped away from you.
Instead of sulking, he focused on the next step, rehabilitating the injury and ensuring coaches that he was going to take the necessary time off to make sure it wouldn’t be an issue in the future.
On Monday, April 13, that attitude, along with all of the work he put in over the last four years, paid off as he committed to continue his athletic and academic pursuits at Judson College in Elgin. It’s the payoff that Bishop, his family and his coaches, were hoping for.
“One thing I know he brings, from the standpoint of on the court, is his level of energy. He’s got a motor. When he goes out there and plays, he’s at top speed,” Logan said. “He has the ability to knock down the outside shot. His ball handling, in the last year and a half, has really improved a ton. I think he brings a lot of things from a guard standpoint that will really be exciting for his college coach to see. I’m excited to see what he can bring to the college game.”
Bishop’s signing is a case study in what you can achieve if you put in the extra work, but it’s also a great life lesson. No one is promised another game, another season, or even another day, so make the most of the time you have.
“You never know when you step on the court if it’s your last time. A great example of that is this coronavirus. These kids don’t get an opportunity to even finish their senior season out. And Brady had a small microcosm of that,” Logan said. “Everything can be gone in a snap of a finger.”