July 2, 2020 

How Bradley’s Mahri Petree keeps the energy up during quarantine

In "Mondays with Mahri," the rising sophomore guard talks team culture, current events and more, often with special guests

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After making the MVC All-Freshman Team, Mahri Petree has used her time in quarantine to pursue her web show, “Mondays with Mahri.” (Bradley Athletics)

“The experience that you have from, you know, the years in your life that you put into your craft and you put into your work, what does success really look like to you as a person in that position?”

It was the second time that Bradley rising sophomore Mahri Petree asked head coach Andrea Gorski that question on her web show, “Mondays with Mahri.” The first time, seconds earlier, Gorski had interjected.

“You calling me old, Mahri?” she teased. “You calling me old?”

“I said experience!” Petree insisted.

Finally, Gorski answered the question, and that earlier playful exchange gained some context.

“I’m not gonna lie that success to me doesn’t mean a lot of wins,” she said. “I know coaches say there’s more than winning, and there is, but honestly, winning is one way that I look at success in dealing with if I’m on the right track or not.”

Luckily, if there’s one thing Bradley women’s basketball had a lot of during the 2019-20 season, it was wins. A record number of them, in fact — both their 22 overall wins and 13 Missouri Valley Conference wins were program-bests. It also saw three players make the All-MVC First Team, another program record. (Petree was Bradley’s representative on the All-Freshman Team.)

Though the Braves finished in third place in the conference behind usual powers Missouri State and Drake, their success had them in the conversation to sneak in as an unprecedented third Valley bid to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the MVC Tournament was canceled on the day it was due to begin, denying Bradley both its chance to see if it could challenge for the automatic bid and a satisfying conclusion to its historic season.

Still, Petree has picked up the Braves’ leftover energy ever since with “Mondays with Mahri.” In the six episodes that have aired since May 4, Petree has spoken to Gorski, incoming freshmen Tete Danso and Isis Fitch and, in a racial justice-focused episode, Bradley’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Chris Reynolds.

She’s also taken the mic for two episodes on her own, once to discuss the team motto and hashtag #BradleyBuilt, and once to discuss recruiting and team culture.

A common theme throughout all six episodes is the resonance of the underlying work ethic that propelled Bradley to such great heights this season.

“Our culture is blue-collar, hard work, nitty-gritty and we’re gonna get it done and we’re gonna go get more if we don’t got enough,” Petree said in the first episode. “That’s what ‘we’ll go get more’ means, and I think that that is a huge part of our culture is just, if you don’t have enough — no excuses, no hands down or nothing — just go get it.”

Gorski, a Bradley women’s basketball alumna herself, expanded on this philosophy in the second episode.

“The older I get, the more I value my time as a Bradley student-athlete, and so coming back was, ‘Alright, so how can we quantify those things, how can we talk about them?’” she said. “Because yeah, we want them in a lot of games in our program, but most important is, we want our young women to leave here feeling they can take on the world.”

On the court, that “go get more” spirit was perhaps best exemplified this season when Bradley hosted Drake on January 26. For the first time in their last 13 tries, the Braves defeated the perennial-favorite Bulldogs, 77-76, extending their MVC start to 7-0.

Off the court, it’s also clear which non-basketball values are important. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Bradley student-athletes organized a peaceful protest and march in early June at which Petree and men’s basketball player Terry Nolan, Jr. spoke.

Mahri Petree speaks to the crowd at a Bradley student-athlete-led protest on June 9, 2020. (Screenshot from “Mondays with Mahri” Episode 4)

“I just believe that there has to be positive change that comes from this, but it’s going to take a collective community effort behind it,” Reynolds told Petree in the fourth episode. “We’re certainly locking arms with everybody who wants to move forward as it relates to seeing this change happen.”

“I definitely think they’ve seen that unity with the protests we had the other day,” Petree replied.

During the 18-minute episode, the longest of the six, Petree also offered Reynolds the opportunity to speak on his emotions and reactions as a Black man in response to Floyd’s death and the protests happening around the country.

“The range of emotions are frustration, anger and patience and everything in between,” he said. “So it just depends on the day, depends on the moment. And so, again, I’m no different than everybody else. I think we’re all feeling a lot of emotions right now, a lot of feelings, a lot of passion, and so it’s gonna take us a long, long while to reconcile a lot of these things.”

Reynolds also spoke after the march, marveling at the student-athletes’ passion for the movement and reinforcing his commitment to holding them up. He reminded the group of hundreds that the march should only be the beginning of their commitment to change.

“I think [your] example really allows us to feel empowered about what we’re doing,” Petree told Reynolds during the episode.

“We want to make sure that we’re on the forefront of helping you all to grow in all those areas of your life so you can be the best person that you possibly can be,” he said in his response. “And so that’s our role, that’s our responsibility, and we’re gonna make sure that we fulfill that.”

The incoming freshman Danso, when asked in the third episode about what attracted her to Bradley, echoed this tight-knit view of the university’s atmosphere.

“I think that it hit hard when Coach Gorski came for the home visit,” she said. “I felt like she’s family, and I felt like this is a place where she would actually take care of me. And when I went on my official [visit], the team was so welcoming and the whole trip was just amazing. So just, like, I really want to be here.”

Petree also asked Danso about what she might bring to the team right away. When Danso said she wanted to be a leader right off the bat — “a voice on the team” — Petree enthusiastically agreed.

“I’m glad you’re looking for that role as you come in, because you need to be ready to step up to that plate, especially as a freshman,” she said.

Fitch, the other incoming freshman, mentioned her “positive mindset and strong work ethic” when asked the same question in the sixth episode.

“I’m happy we got a lot of good energy coming in!” Petree said.

Later, when Fitch asked what Petree’s toughest moment was as a freshman, she said that a lot of her own “positive energy” came from her Bradley coaches and teammates (which includes her sister Lasha, a rising junior and one of the three All-MVC First Team picks).

The Braves will be down three seniors entering the next season, including All-MVC First Team and All-Defensive Team member Chelsea Brackmann, who was recently named Bradley’s Most Outstanding Female Athlete for the second year in a row. With that caliber of leadership missing from the floor, there’s plenty of room for players like Petree, Danso, Fitch and more to pick up where those seniors left off.

But embracing the future doesn’t mean leaving this past season in the dust entirely.

“Squad 45, they’re at the top of the list,” Gorski said of the 2019-20 team, when asked about her favorite basketball memory. “There’s great memories from this year. And like I said, how you guys went about taking care of business. You guys did it the right way, and so I’ll always cherish the memories from this past year.”

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