MISSOULA, Mont. - As a senior at Corvallis High School, Riley Bradshaw had narrowed down his college basketball choices to either Utah State or Montana and while he initially chose Utah State, he quickly changed his mind and transferred to Missoula after only one semester.
"I knew I had this year of waiting, but it was worth it to me to get near family and friends and just to play here," recalls Bradshaw of his decision to transfer. "I knew I kind of wanted to come here and I felt like I kind of made a mistake."
It's been an extremely long wait for Bradshaw. After transferring from Utah State he's been forced to sit two full semesters due to NCAA rules. That means he hasn't played a game since his senior season at Corvallis, which was 22 months ago. But if all his grades can get finalized by game time on Friday, he could finally see the court against Montana Western.
"You know it is killing me, I can't wait to actually be out there on the floor," says the freshman guard. "You know I was actually hoping last week possibly, there was a little bit of hope for that."
"I know he's ready," says Montana junior guard Jordan Gregory. "He's one of my good friends. We live in the same apartment complex and we've been counting down the days for him so I'm really excited for him, he's been working really hard."
"We keep saying free Riley Bradshaw," added senior Kareem Jamar. "That's the slogan right now so we're happy for him and I can't wait for him to get out there, hopefully the teachers do all they can to get the grades up and get him out there."
‘Free Riley Bradshaw' is not just about getting him off the bench; it's about adding another impact player to the Grizzly rotation.
"He makes the right passes. He makes the extra pass. He can shoot it and he can get in the paint," says Jamar.
"He's a guy that can make plays off the bounce, he can knock down shots, he can finish at the rim," says head coach Wayne Tinkle. "So that gives us another weapon out there on the perimeter."
The wait will also be over for Griz fans in the Missoula area who got to witness Bradshaw grow up on the hardwoods in Corvallis and now get to see him wear that maroon and silver for the Montana program.
"When Riley gets in, he's kind of a local legend," explained Gregory. "So once people see he's starting to get time there's going to be a lot more excitement."
"You would hope that with the Bradshaw clan and then all the folks down the Bitterroot that they might come and add to our attendance," says Tinkle.
"You got to root for a guy like that who comes in as a team guy and is still aggressive," added Jamar. "So we can't wait for him to be out there."
"I'm just going to be excited, might be a little nervous, who knows," responded Bradshaw about his upcoming Grizzly debut. "I mean I don't know what to expect really my first time stepping out on the court. I've tried to envision it but all I can say is I'm excited and I really can't wait."
If Bradshaw's semester transcript is not finalized in time for Friday's game against Montana Western, he would likely see his first minutes on the road at Idaho on December 28.