February 13, 2022 

Araion Bradshaw: More than a basketball player

Dayton’s Araion Bradshaw details her accomplishments and impact on and off the court

Araion Bradshaw continuously works to better her community. From excelling in the classroom and making her voice heard through her social justice work, Bradshaw’s impact can be felt throughout Dayton and the Atlantic 10 as a whole.

Shortly before it came time to choose her major, Bradshaw’s desire to build a sports complex in her hometown of Boston began. 

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Coming from a basketball family, with her dad, aunt and older sister having played the sport, fitness is vital to the Bradshaws. In addition, being a female athlete has given her a different perspective on fitness facilities. 

“It’s normal that a lot of the guys have places to go and workout and they have personal trainers,” Bradshaw told The Next. “But I just wanted to build something that females have equal access to but also that can help build the holistic athlete.”

She added, “So you can train downstairs. You can go and do the lifting and the agility and speed stuff. And then also the top floor, whether it’s classrooms where kids can go in and study, whether it’s trainings or programs for building your resume and stuff like that. I want to build a holistic athlete in all areas.” 

In 2020 Bradshaw earned her undergraduate degree in civil engineering, a major she chose because she enjoys getting her hands dirty, building from the ground up, drawing, and due to the fact, she excels in math. 

She chose her master’s degree in engineering management, which she graduated with in 2021 because Bradshaw believed the courses that covered the business side, including analytics and leadership, would make her a more well-rounded candidate when she entered the workforce.

Bradshaw is currently pursuing her master of business administration. 

“I figured all three of those degrees put together put me in a good position to know what’s going on,” Bradshaw said. “Whether it’s structurally for the building, whether it’s from a business standpoint, or just how to be a better leader as well. So all my degrees go hand in hand in to my ultimate goal which is building that sports complex back in Boston.”

As she works towards this larger goal, Bradshaw has also worked towards change closer to home. 

Bradshaw’s social justice work

Social justice was something that Bradshaw always paid attention to. But she never knew how she fit into it.

During the summer of 2020, that changed. 

“When all that stuff was happening with police brutality and we were seeing so many different things on the news, for me it was just like ‘okay, here’s an opportunity for me to make change,'” Bradshaw said. 

With the pandemic, it was also one of the first summers since starting high school; Bradshaw spent a lot of time with her youngest sisters (ages 10 and 7), who she is incredibly close to. 

“They’re the reason why I even get up and do the things that I do daily because I want them to experience different things than I did, better things than I did,” Bradshaw said. 

She added, “So for me, it was a combination of having my sisters around and seeing them grow up and wanting them to experience something better than I did and have great experiences in all walks of life, regardless of what they look like or anything like that. And then also just the combination of things that were going on in the country in the summer of 2020.”

In response to that summer, Bradshaw founded Athletes Driving Change.

In a video shown during the team’s Jan. 16 matchup against Saint Louis on CBS Sports Network, she described the minority female, the student-run organization as, “a platform for athletes to use their voice to create change in the moment, whether that was educating their own teammates about their rights as voters or the things that they can do on campus.”

This season, Bradshaw and Athletes Driving Change have continued to grow, including expanding the Social Justice Awareness Month that the organization has run the last two Februarys. 

“Now we have the men’s side on it as well, being involved and they’ve been super excited to be a part of it,” Bradshaw said. “So it’s evolved, more people have gotten their hands in on it. And [they’re] then willing to get involved to spread awareness, to attach their teams and their local brands to it.”

She added, “At the end of the day, people obviously don’t want to attach their name to something that doesn’t align with things that they believe in. So it was exciting for me to see so many teams attaching their brand, their names to Athletes Driving Change and the stuff we’re doing all year round, but especially in February as well.” 

Bradshaw noted that the WNBA’s 2020 season inspired her as well because of how vocal the league was and how much leverage they held, being one of only a few leagues playing at the time. 

“I think watching those incredible women do what they did for their league, but also for the communities, and people even sitting out to continue to advance the work of social justice, definitely was inspiring,” Bradshaw said. “And I was grateful to have people that I could look up to in women’s basketball make a change in social justice and give me some confidence, some wisdom as well on how to do it for college basketball.”

Bradshaw’s two youngest sisters give her perspective on what she has been through and what she wants the future to look like. She’s driven by the desire to make the world better for them, their classmates and those that come after them. 

Guard Jenna Giacone has already seen the change Bradshaw has enacted. 

“After spending five years now with her, we’ve grown a lot together,” Giacone said. I think she’s someone that’s really implemented change, not only on our team and in our organization but in the whole community here in Dayton. So I think one thing she’s taught me is just to have and use your voice. She’s a great leader on and off the court.”

Dayton head coach Shauna Green has noticed Bradshaw’s growth and willingness to create change instead of standing by and simply talking about change. 

In addition to her work with Athletes Driving Change, Bradshaw has served on the A-10’s Commission on Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion for the past two years. The commission was critical to Bradshaw because it demonstrated to her that the A-10 was willing to put action behind its words and the conference showed they were open and willing to listen. She added the A-10 tried to “figure out how they can help in any way and be pioneers of change, especially when it comes to college athletics.”

Black History Month 

To me [Black History] is American history,” Bradshaw said. “It’s something that needs to be celebrated. It’s something that frankly doesn’t need a month. I think the work that African Americans have done in this country should be celebrated beyond just February, but I’m grateful that we do have a month to focus on.”

She added, “It means excellence to me it means that we have heroes. It means that we’re important. It means that we matter, and we’re valued, and I’m grateful to be able to celebrate the people who came before me for all that they’ve done for me and people like me, and frankly, everybody else in the world. So, to me, it validates what I already know about Black history, and I’m grateful that it can be a part of American history for February but, more importantly, the entire year, and education and excellence in general.”

Bradshaw designed the team’s Black History Month warm-up shirts for the second year in a row. But, this year, she knew she could take it a step further and worked with teammate Amari Davidson to make the shirts available to sell, with proceeds benefiting The Dayton Foundation.

Araion Bradshaw models the Black History Month t-shirts she designed.
Araion Bradshaw poses in the Black History Month t-shirts she designed. Feb. 2, 2022. Photo Courtesy of Erik Schelkun.

After working with the athletic department and the program’s media team, the shirts went on sale in the bookstore, the bookstore’s website, and the University of Dayton Arena. 

Bradshaw also expanded on the design of the 2021 shirt, in which the Dayton logo was filled with names of 115 “African American trailblazers and newsmakers.”

“This year, we wanted to continue those names because we think representation, education, giving people their flowers is really important,” Bradshaw said. 

For the 2022 shirt, Bradshaw incorporated more names with a broader scope. 

“We added African American names, Black names, minorities. Just including all people that we thought were important,” she said. “All different colors of people that we thought were important in American history and advancing our country forward. And we added athletes, authors, activists, literally anything you can think of onto the shirt and expanded our range of the people that we included and we touched because I thought it was important that we extended that representation and added some more names that people may not know about.”

She added, “It’s all about education because I have teammates, I have coaches that read over the shirt and go ‘I don’t know this person, I’m going to go look them up.’ So we’re hoping that it brings that along with it, too, along with celebrating those kinds of heroes. And obviously, for Black History Month, the focus is black health and wellness, so we added names in the medical field.”

Dayton wears warm up shirts with names of Black, African American and minority names.
Dayton lines up wearing the Black History Month t-shirts designed by Bradshaw. Feb. 2, 2022. Photo Courtsey of Erik Schelkun.

Bradshaw also worked with Premier Health, a sponsor of Dayton Athletics, because of the focus on Black health and wellness this month. In addition to highlighting African Americans in health and wellness at Premier Health, the team invited them to games and sent them thank you notes. 

Bradshaw’s awards, recognition and legacy 

Bradshaw has been formally recognized for her work off the court. In April 2021, she was the recipient of the first Social Justice Award at the Dayton Athletics Department’s annual R.U.D.Y.S. (Recognition and Celebration of University of Dayton Student-Athletes Year-End Showcase) award banquet. 

She was honored to receive the award and was glad that the university showed its value of social justice work by creating it. 

“I think it’s important for anyone but especially student-athletes who tend to fall into the realm of entertainment and entertainment only, to use their voices to impact change in any way that they see fit,” Bradshaw said. 

In the CBSSN video, forward Kyla Whitehead noted the impact demonstrating athletes can do more than play their sport can have on the next generation. 

“There are a lot of young girls who look up to us,” Whitehead said. “So we want to make sure we hold that image of when you get here it doesn’t have to be, “you’re just an athlete,” that you’re more than an athlete. You can do whatever you want. And I think that’s a strong example of what she’s doing.”

A couple of months later, Bradshaw was named one of the A-10’s two nominees for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. 

“I knew I was doing something great, but you don’t realize how much impact you have until you see it right in front of you and people are able to verbalize the impact you had,” Bradshaw said. 

Green described Bradshaw as not only “more than a basketball player,” but also one of the hardest workers in all phases of life she’s seen.

“She just goes about it where you don’t have to worry about what she’s doing,” Green said. “She gets the work done. She just gets the work done. And you know it’s going to be a high-level product, what she puts out there, on the basketball floor, in the classroom, in her personal life.”

She added, “I think the best trait about AB is just her consistency. And not a lot of people are consistent anymore. In everything she does, she’s consistent. You know what you’re going to get from her. You know that she’s completely bought into what she’s doing. And you got that trust in her and that’s a very good feeling to have as a head coach. And then for all the other things she does in her life, it’s just consistent.”

Bradshaw’s impact has been noted, but when discussing her legacy, she redefines the term. She hopes that her legacy is not what she leaves behind but instead how she changes the future. 

“Whether that’s the way that a point guard here plays the next couple years or the way that our team goes about practice every day, or the way that we celebrate Black History Month, I want to leave an impact for the future,” Bradshaw said. “I just want to be known as someone that was consistent, committed, someone that was willing to do the right thing, even when I didn’t want to and putting people first, but also never dimming my light.”

Bradshaw is also an entrepreneur 

In addition to her social justice work and designing shirts the past two years for Dayton; Bradshaw recently expanded her brand. In October, Bradshaw debuted her first slide design with her partner ISlide, a Boston-based company. Since then, she has added new designs, with four slide designs and a pair of socks currently available

Each pair of slides she designed has a special meaning, with her first design focusing on Boston, the city she grew up in. 

“The person that I am and the basketball player that I am isn’t that without the city of Boston and I’m super grateful to come from that community,” Bradshaw said. “We have some really good basketball players, we have some really good people. And it’s a community that wraps their arms around young people so I wouldn’t be who I am without that city and those people in my city.”

Bradshaw also has a pair of slides with her logo on them, and a pair that have her logo on one side and “Deposits” on the other side. 

“[Deposits is] something that I’ve honed in on the past couple of years in terms of just my life,” Bradshaw said. “And whether that’s sports or educationally, continuing every day to make deposits [putting in work], I know one day I’ll turn around and they’ll pay off and I’ll have exactly what I want.” 

The final pair of slides is in honor of Dayton, a place that Bradshaw says changed her life forever. “I wanted to make sure I also had something that gave some recognition, some appreciation to the people at UD who have made me a better person as well,” she said. 

Her career on the court

In between her myriad accomplishments, Bradshaw also has had success on the court. She has started all but one game of the 105 she’s played in a Dayton uniform over the last four seasons, after spending her freshman year at South Carolina and sitting out the 2017-18 season due to transfer rules. 

Over the years, Bradshaw’s leadership has been the most notable trait for Green, who said that each year Bradshaw bought in more and invested more and more into the program. 

“She’s our leader on the floor, and I literally trust her with everything,” Green said. “She doesn’t waver from anything. She believes in what we’re doing. She’s willing to do whatever it takes for us to find success.”

She added, “It’s a good feeling in a relationship when you are all on the same page, as a head coach, with your point guard. That trust is there. And you see the success we’ve had because of it. And she does so many things that maybe don’t show up in the stats sheet. She’s not our leading scorer. But she sets the tone in pretty much every facet of the game for us in terms of basketball.”

Bradshaw currently leads the team in assists (96) and steals (36) and averages 6.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 31.8 minutes per game. 

“Whenever she’s on the court, she’s our coach. You always say you want your point guard to be your coach, and that’s who she is,” Whitehead said

Before the start of the season, Bradshaw was named to the A-10’s Preseason All-Defensive Team after being named the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and earning Third Team All-Conference and All-Defensive Team honors last season. 

Giacone described Bradshaw’s work ethic as “unmatched” and noted that Bradshaw is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed as a point guard and make the team better. 

Bradshaw came back to Dayton for a final season because she wanted one more chance at a normal season and accomplishing the goals the team failed to last season. 

With the end of the conference season in her sights, Bradshaw and the rest of her team have their eyes set on winning the A-10 regular season and conference championships. And making a run in the NCAA Tournament. 

Time to expand her wings 

Though she believes her time at Dayton has helped her grow in all facets of her life, Bradshaw is excited to expand her wings and continue to grow as an individual and fulfill her purpose. 

This summer, Bradshaw looks forward to spending time with her family before exploring playing professionally. She also knows she has a future as an engineer if playing professionally does not work out. 

“I know whatever she ends up doing, she’ll be great at it,” Giacone said. “And she’ll put all her effort into what she believes in, whether it’s engineering or opening up her own gym. But I do know that wherever she lands and whoever she surrounds herself with, she’ll have a huge impact.”

Bradshaw knows she wants to continue her social justice work no matter what’s next. 

“I [will] still have a platform at home [and] I can continue to push this message forward and build relationships with people that I know locally, and then expand it to wherever it goes,” Bradshaw said. “So I’m excited either way that it goes and hopefully it goes in both areas and I continue my work at home and then continue my work in the A-10.” 

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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