IUP's Bryce Radford brings career to a close: 'God put me here for a much bigger purpose'

The college career of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) senior guard Bryce Radford has officially come to a close.

His Crimson Hawks put up a valiant effort Wednesday night against No. 1-seeded Gannon University (Erie, Pennsylvania) in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Tournament, but fell just short, 94-89.

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Radford added six points in 18 minutes as his team rallied from down 14 in the first half on the road against a team that had swept the Crimson Hawks during the regular season. They managed to tie the game at 75 with seven minutes remaining, but ran out of steam at the end.

On Dec. 11, Radford’s college basketball career was seemingly nothing but a memory. “I was retired,” he said in a video from IUP. He had bought a house, started a business and embraced life after basketball. But that all changed when he received a text from Dante Lombardi, the son of IUP’s head coach, Joe Lombardi, IUP’s longtime head coach and program leader in wins (417).

The Crimson Hawks needed help, and Radford had one year of eligibility remaining.

“There’s one person that could get me to come back and leave a whole life,” Radford said. “It’s Joe Lombardi.”

Radford had been on the IUP roster in 2019-20 but never saw game action and redshirted, and the following season was severely limited by the COVID pandemic. In 2021-22 as a sophomore, Radford played in 23 games and helped the Crimson Hawks win the PSAC Atlantic Region championship and advance to the Division II Final Four with a 33-3 record.

The Beckley, West Virginia, native transferred to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology for the 2023-24 season in what he thought was his last hurrah. Yet IUP and Lombardi were on his mind daily, even every time he opened his Bible.

“Sitting at home watching church with the Bible you got me,” Radford said he texted to Coach Lombardi in October. “We got two rings and a lot of wins, but this is the most meaningful thing I got in four years of college. I use it every single day. Forever grateful and thankful for you, coach. I love you.”

When Lombardi came calling, Radford jumped at the opportunity. He rejoined the Crimson Hawks for their game on Dec. 30, was welcomed with open arms by his teammates, and played some of the best basketball of his life.

On Jan. 3 in his triumphant return to IUP’s home arena, Radford tied the school record by connecting on eight 3-pointers in a 78-48 win against Shepherd. Later that month, on Jan. 27, he broke the record outright by knocking down nine triples in a 77-64 victory against Slippery Rock. Seven times since his return, Radford has hit at least four 3-pointers in a game.

“To be able to do that in front of [the fans],” Radford said in the video, “that was God telling me I was right where I needed to be. And I couldn’t be happier.”

Radford knows that, as a college basketball player, he has a platform to influence others for good. His X account is littered with references to faith. He was ready to transition into “retirement,” but God had a better plan for his life, and Radford heeded His call.

“God put me here for a much bigger purpose than to just get the crowd excited about making threes,” Radford said in the video.

In the end, God’s purpose was not to give Radford a PSAC Tournament championship, or to make him an NBA draft pick. In the end, God’s purpose was to glorify Himself through a storybook experience Radford will never forget.

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