After the UVU men’s basketball team picked up a big road win at Grand Canyon, Wolverine head coach Mark Madsen took a moment to make what he called a “special announcement.”

In a video that was posted on UVU social media, Madsen informs senior Bradley Kitchen that he has been awarded a scholarship and the entire Wolverine squad goes crazy at the news, cheering and swarming Kitchen.

While it’s always thrilling to see walk-on athletes earn scholarships, it’s not uncommon to see such announcements.

Kitchen’s story, however, isn’t your traditional tale.

It’s one of hard work and dedication but also of unexpected twists and turns — and plenty of important lessons.

From high school to college

Kitchen graduated from Springville High School in 2013 after a tremendous career for the Red Devils (661 points, 214 rebounds, 138 rebounds and 85 steals in 90 games).

He didn’t end up getting a lot of college basketball opportunities, however, and during his two-year mission to Mozambique for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he realized playing at that level might not work out.

“During my senior year of high school I was being recruited to kind of go down to Dixie State and play ball there,” Kitchen said in an interview last week. “I kept in touch with touch with the Dixie State head coach a few times on my mission and basically he just told me there was nothing guaranteed, nothing promised. If I wanted to possibly walk on and try out there, I could at the time. I just thought, you know, basketball was a great thing for me to grow up doing and all that but I kind of needed to grow up and move on.”

He decided to work toward a civil engineering degree but chose to get his general education credits at UVU.

“Neither UVU nor Dixie State had civil engineering programs but UVU was closer to home,” Kitchen said. “I decided to do two years here and then transfer, probably to Utah State.”

He also chose to attempt to walk on to the basketball team but didn’t make the cut in either his freshman or sophomore years.

“It was for good reason, since I wasn’t very good,” Kitchen said. “With the way that head coach Mark Pope was moving the program at that time, it made sense to not take a chance on me.”

Academically his progress was on schedule and so he prepared to head to Logan, even going so far as to get ready to sign a housing contract — until life threw him another curve ball.

“It was at that same time that UVU announced that they would be getting a civil engineering program starting in the fall of that next year,” Kitchen said. “It was really weird. When they announced it, I just had this feeling like I needed to stay here. I didn’t know why. So I kind of did something that didn’t seem very logical to me at the time and I decided to stay UVU.”

Once again, Kitchen had thought he would be headed on a different route but ended up staying in Orem.

“I guess my story, my whole experience is like, I shouldn’t be here,” Kitchen said. “But God has a reason why I’m here.”

Learning around the team

This is where college basketball re-entered the picture for Kitchen. He had spent some time as an assistant coach at Salem Hills but hadn’t thought things would work out with the Wolverines.

“That next season one of the head managers for the team just reached out to me randomly,” Kitchen said. “He had my number from when I tried out like two years before and he just texted me. He said he knew I had coached some high school ball and asked if I might be interested in pursuing a career in college coaching. If so, he asked if I had thought about being a head manager and getting my foot in the door that way. It was something I never really even thought of but to get an opportunity like that was too good to pass up.”

He decided to see how things would be as a manager and in doing so impressed Pope and the UVU coaching staff. He was given a chance to be the head manager for the team.

At that point in 2019, however, Pope took a position as the new head coach at BYU. It was a possibility that Kitchen would also go to Provo to manage the Cougars but things didn’t work out.

Instead, Mark Madsen took over the helm of the Wolverines as head coach with Kitchen staying as the manager.

To walk on or to not walk on

Kitchen said Madsen even invited him a couple of times to try out as a walk-on but he chose not to.

That response, however, didn’t sit well with some of the UVU players Kitchen had worked with.

“Some of my teammates caught wind that I kind of like shut down Coach and they all kind of got mad at me, saying they knew I needed to do this, that it was my senior year and I was going to regret it for the rest of my life if you didn’t,” Kitchen said. “Casdon Jardine and Brandon Averette were kind of the two guys who drove that. One day I was just sitting there like, you know, I have this opportunity to kind of fulfill a dream of mine. I knew I wasn’t gonna play but just being a part of the team and being part of what’s happening here is something that I’ve always dreamed of and wanted to be a part of. So I went up to Coach Madsen one day after practice and said, ‘hey, if you’re still looking for another player, I’ll try out.’”

Madsen said he knew Kitchen could be a valuable asset as a player.

“He is such a great guy,” Madsen said. “He was the team manager who did all the little things. I talked with some of the previous coaches and they said he is a great player.”

Kitchen joined the team as a walk-on but in doing so had to give up his manager scholarship.

“It was kind of a big sacrifice for me,” Kitchen said. “I didn’t really know how I was going to be able to handle all the finances and paying for college and living away from home. But I was able to find a way to do that.”

A chance to shine

As the Wolverines dealt with some injuries, Kitchen ended up having a bigger role than he probably anticipated. Madsen, however, was confident in the former Red Devil star.

“He was going into games,” Madsen said. “He played at North Dakota State and got a big steal. He is a great defender and has a nice outside shot. He transcends the word, ‘team.’ He is all team. He has no ego and that’s something that is a beautiful thing about him as a player. And he’s a tremendous basketball player. He’s been fantastic.”

Meanwhile Kitchen was still doing his other responsibilities.

“He was traveling on the road with us as a walk-on and he was still doing all the manager duties,” Madsen said. “He was there in practice every day pushing the guys who get heavy minutes and he was also washing all of the jerseys and carrying the bags.”

The UVU head coach said Kitchen’s hard work and dedication earned him the scholarship he was awarded.

Kitchen said he knew there were some scholarships available but no one said anything to him about him getting one until the announcement on Jan. 25.

“I always kind of thought that would be nice,” Kitchen said. “I’m only going to have one semester, so it’s a low, low risk scholarship for them. They can give it to me and then when I graduate, they get that right back. But I had no idea. I’m grateful for it. It helps me a lot so I won’t have to work as much as I would have been with part-time jobs and stuff like that to help kind of make ends meet.”

Kitchen said his sole focus now is just on doing whatever he can to help the Wolverines be at their best.

“We’re going to we’re going to win a lot of these games in the second half of conference and a lot of that is just because of the chemistry that we’ve developed within ourselves,” Kitchen said. “Our team goal from the very start of the year was to win the tournament to make school history and to go to our first ever NCAA tournament. We have the guys on our roster to do that. For me, I’m going to do whatever it is I can do to help them and support them.”

A bright future

Eventually Kitchen plans to pursue coaching in college basketball with civil engineering as his backup plan. Madsen is confident Kitchen will be successful in whatever route he chooses.

“In whatever Brad Kitchen decides to do, I think for the sky is the limit,” Madsen said. “That’s how great of a person he is. That’s how smart he is. He’s indicated he wants to go into coaching and I think Brad would be tremendous.”

Kitchen said he has learned some valuable lessons as he has gone through everything on his journey to being a college basketball player.

“First and foremost, if you have a dream and you want to like achieve it, I know it sounds cliche, but go for it,” Kitchen said. “You never know what path it’s going to take. You know, my path is extremely odd and unique. I don’t know if there’s another person in the in college basketball that has the same path that I do. But I think that’s what’s great about this sport and about just chasing your dreams. There’s no one specific way you can do anything. It’s all about your hard work and dedication.

“I guess the other thing would just be being a being a team player. You really can’t get anywhere in this life by yourself. You can only go so far. You really need to rely on others to help you along the way.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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