Fulton head coach RJ Coffey said before the Steamers even tipped off in Game 1 that senior Bradlee Damhoff could be the “X-Factor” this season, and it’s proving to be accurate.
“I am expecting a lot from him this year and when he gets going he makes us a much better team,” Coffey said in that preseason interview with the Herald. “When Bradlee is focused and working hard he has the ability to dominate and really be a difference maker for us.”
He has been, and it’s helped propel the Steamers to a 20-7 record as the regular season draws to an end. Damhoff is the third leading scorer, at time coming out with the team-best points in critical games. That included a 15-point performance in the Steamers’ upset win over a ranked Rockridge team.
“He’s really added another element to our offensive attack,” Coffey said. “And it’s been nice because we can get teams inside and out.”
Damhoff hasn’t always been in his lanky, 6-07 frame. When he came into freshman year, he was still measuring under six-foot, leaving him prone to playing perimeter positions over time in the lane.
Then he grew, and grew some more. He’s a towering presence now, but has always had the mentality for either position on the floor.
“When we played rec ball, I’d play guard,” Damhoff said. “The transition has gone pretty smoothly. My dad was a post, and I’ve been taught that so even if I have those guard skills, I knew what to do in the post.”
He still uses his speed as much as he can, especially when he plays with a high-tempo group of guards like his teammates.
“I think I’m actually kind of quick, I think that can surprise people,” Damhoff said. “We like to run the court. Now, it’s all we do ... we’re one of the best conditioned teams in the conference.”
Damhoff offers that traditional center for the Steamers, long arms to get inside and the smarts to kick it out if needed. He’s also a force on rebounds, leading the team in that category.
One thing Damhoff has struggled with is emotion, especially as he first started getting into varsity time his junior year. He loves the game of basketball, and when he’s not playing well it can get to him.
Especially when he gets the ball inside and it’s knocked out of his hands by a pesky guard. That’s something he’s had to deal with quite a bit on the block.
“I struggle with ball handling sometimes,” Damhoff said. “I haven’t been a guard in a long time, and I’m still not up to the pace.”
He’s worked on not getting frustrated, though, and that’s showing this well too. Damhoff plays with a much calmer demeanor, and is able to move on to the next play when he needs.
“My main goal was to not let things get to me,” Damhoff said. “I think I’ve done a little better on that.”
“One of the things we talked to him about in the offseason is about his mentality.” Coach Coffey said. “You have to come in, and no matter what happens, you have to stay positive. You can’t let negative things impact your play. He’s done a much better job of handling himself both mentally and physically on the court.”
That play will have to continue – along with the quality play of the rest of the Steamers. They have three regular season games left, including two tough ones, before they host the regional tournament on Stan Borgman Court.