News & Updates

Sideline salute

Nearly three decades have passed since the glory days of Bradley Hall of Famer Mitchell "JJ" Anderson, but his influence on fans, players, and the proud institution of Bradley men's basketball lives on. A jersey bearing his retired number (11) hangs in Carver Arena, and now a generous donation has put Anderson's name right on the court where the team spends most of its time.

In a naming event before a small crowd of Anderson’s family, friends, and former teammates at the university’s new arena, current Bradley basketball players rolled away red carpets to reveal Anderson’s full name printed on the sidelines of their new, state-of-the-art practice court.

“It is our hope that it will be a good bridge from the past and into the future of how Bradley student athletes represent their institution and their community while on the Hilltop and beyond.  JJ Anderson, through his conduct and performance both on the court and off, has left positive and meaningful imprints not only on our basketball program but on our university and hearts as well,” said Bradley University President Joanne Glasser.

The dedication was made possible through a donation to The Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance by Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley. Anderson is beginning his 11th year with the National Basketball Association team, for which he currently serves as director of pro personnel.  Heisley, who sat beside an emotional Anderson during the naming ceremony, said the decision to offer his support to the campaign was an easy one.

“Quite honestly, it was the perfect opportunity for me to do something for Bradley and for Mitchell Anderson.  It really is great to have the two put together,” Heisley said.

The new $50 million arena sits atop the site where the Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse once stood.  It was in that historic venue that Anderson carried the Braves to the team’s first-ever Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship in 1980, Valley regular-season titles in 1980 and 1982, and its fourth NIT championship.

Those accolades are just a few pulled from a list large enough to match the former power forward’s impressive physical stature.  It’s a wonder, then, that these statistical accomplishments are an afterthought of fans and teammates when they talk about the beloved Brave.  While most storied athletes are known best for points scored and titles won, Anderson’s indelible mark is more often described with words like “courteous” and “gentle,” and few can talk about J.J. without referencing his wide, happy grin. 

“He’s genuine, and he’s humble. He was a great teammate.  He’s a hard worker.  He’s a graduate. He embodies everything that we want our student athletes to be and to become, and having that reminder every day on the floor as we come to work is special, and something we should all strive for,” said men’s basketball Coach Jim Les.

That’s a standard not lost on current Bradley guard Sam Maniscalco, whose father, Carl Maniscalco, played alongside Anderson for the Braves from 1980-1982. 

“It’s just kind of a reminder every day that these guys set the path for us. This facility being built is a product of them and what they’ve done in the past, and we just have to carry the torch and accept that responsibility,” Maniscalco said.

The men’s basketball team begins a new era this fall with resources that rival any other school’s across the nation.  Thanks to Anderson’s legacy and Heisley’s generosity, Bradley athletes of today and tomorrow will be armed with both the inspiration and the tangible tools necessary for success.