LINCOLN — Jonah Bradley is taking another step in pursuing his dream.
The latest step for the former Norfolk High basketball standout involves a move from high school coaching to the collegiate level, where he will be an assistant coach at NCAA Division II Winona State University in Minnesota.
Bradley had been the boys basketball coach at Lincoln Southeast High School until last week’s announcement that Bradley would leave for the job at Winona State.
"I'm very excited to get to the college game, having been a college basketball player, and coming from a family that has siblings who have played at the Division I level, it is really exciting to learn from a really good head coach in coach Todd Eisner," Bradley said. "It seems like we will have a lot of success at Winona in the near future. I'm really looking forward to adding value and learning on a daily basis."
During his time at Norfolk High, Bradley was a three-year letter winner in basketball and helped lead the Panthers to a state runner-up finish in 2010. He also lettered in cross country and track and field.
After Bradley graduated from Norfolk High in 2010, he attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and was a four-year letter winner and starter on the men's basketball team, where, coincidentally, he caught Eisner’s eye.
Bradley's first job out of college was as a reserve coach for the boys basketball team at Lincoln Southwest. The following year he took the same position at Lincoln Southeast before he found his first head coaching position at Lexington High School in 2015.
After one season at Lexington, Bradley ended up back at Lincoln Southeast, as the head boys basketball coach.
Bradley slowly learned how important communication and committing to a higher standard was when it came to being part of a successful basketball program.
"The message at Southeast was to win the day because we wanted to get 1% better every single day," Bradley said. "We wanted to create a language within the program and simplify things for kids. We want to make things that we are teaching on the floor super understandable.
“We want to take the thinking out of it so they can go out there, play free and execute without having to think."
In his three seasons at Lincoln Southeast went from 4-20 in his first year as head coach to 14-11 in his final season with the Knights.
"Coach Bradley continually set high expectations for his student-athletes and challenged them to consistently compete both in practices and games,” said JJ Toczek, activities director at Lincoln Southeast. “He steadily grew Southeast boys basketball over the past few seasons and leaves the program in excellent shape for the 2020-21 campaign.
"We wish coach Bradley well, at Winona State University in Minnesota, as he advances in his coaching career."
Eisner, who played at Creighton University and has been at Winona State for five seasons, noticed Bradley first as an opposing coach when Bradley was playing at Nebraska Wesleyan and Eisner was coaching at Midland University.
Bradley reached out to Eisner and Winona State and, in their visit that lasted for a few hours, Bradley talked about his goals with Eisner.
"He expressed some interest in having a goal of getting into college coaching, and he asked about if there was any openings," Eisner said. “We visited about what his aspirations were and what role he would have on our staff. He fit what we were looking to find in terms of filling the position, and we went from there."
With the direction that Lincoln Southeast was heading, Eisner saw that as a good sign.
"We felt very fortunate to be able to add someone to our staff who has head coaching experience. Being a head coach at the Class A level in Nebraska is going to put him against Omaha Central, Millard North and against the best teams in the state of Nebraska," Eisner said. "The position many times goes to younger guys, but Jonah has had a plan in place in terms of an opportunity that was presented to him. He wanted to get into college coaching, so to add someone with his experience and knowledge, we thought it would be very positive for our program."
The position at Winona State in the past was a graduate assistant position, but the position has changed to a regular assistant coaching position, which has allowed Eisner to bring Bradley onto the coaching staff.
"Jonah is making a lot of sacrifices, but it is something he wants to do," Eisner said. "Through his work ethic and passion for the game, I think he's going to make the most of the opportunity and put himself on a path to move him forward in this profession."
When the opportunity came along to coach at the collegiate level, Bradley had no choice but to accept the job offer. He will start at Winona State on Aug. 1.
"I'm sad to be leaving Lincoln Southeast. I'm leaving everything I know, but I told the (Lincoln Southeast) kids that when you've got big dreams and they don't scare you, then they aren't big enough," Bradley said. "It's an opportunity and it's a leap of faith that I know in the end is one step closer to the ultimate goal. As far as leaving Nebraska, it's the next necessary step to follow my dream."