Once, it was backyard pickup games against each other that always seemed to get heated.
Now, it’s an appearance in the state tournament.
The Bearden boys basketball team is headed back to Murfreesboro for the state tournament on Thursday, and brothers Izaiha and Elijah Bredwood are a big part of the reason why.
Izaiha, a senior, and Elijah, a junior, have been key contributors in the backcourt on this year’s team. Both have consistently scored in double figures all season long, while they also find other ways to stuff the stat sheet and help their team be successful.
Basketball has been something the Bredwoods have always known. Ever since grade school, basketball has been a big part of their lives, and they’re relishing their final chances to play high school basketball together.
“It was good to have him beside me at all times,” Izaiha said. “We always played each other out in the yard, so to finally have him on my team felt good.”
Izaiha and Elijah will join the rest of the Bulldogs in their pursuit of the school’s second state title in a quarterfinal game against Cane Ridge on Thursday at 4 p.m. Central. If Bearden wins, it will play the winner of Cleveland and Collierville on Friday.
The championship game is Saturday at 5 p.m. Central.
While Izaiha and Elijah may be brothers, their personalities and play styles have set them apart.
“On the person side of things, they are both good kids,” Coach Jeremy Parrott said. “They’re coachable kids, and they are very different as siblings most of the time are.
“[Izaiha is] your consummate point guard, fast twitch kid. A bulldog, no pun intended, in every sense of the word. Then you have Elijah whose game is a little more flowing and smooth if you will. Their approaches to the game mirror their physical attributes. Izaiha is more in your face and confrontational, and Elijah is more kinda watch things develop and see where he can help.”
With two guys who know each other so well personally on the court at the same time, it can bring a certain dynamic to the floor.
“There’s already a level of competition there that’s grown since childhood, so when they get thrown into the same situation and the same competitive atmosphere, it kinda gets amped up a little bit,” Coach Parrott said. “The expectation is there for the other one to do well and to learn things quicker and to be able to perform quicker, and it’s a good thing.
“Having two boys of my own you know I can appreciate how brothers get along.”
Coach Parrott said he’s noticed one frequent advantage to having siblings in a program is that the older sibling’s experience tends to help push the younger player’s development at a faster pace. And that’s been the case with the Bredwood brothers.
“It brings a certain different relationship,” Coach Parrott said. “The one that comes before tends to learn how things are done, and he vets the other one into being able to come along a little quicker.”
Izaiha recalled one specific example in the Oak Ridge game when an inbounds pass went through Elijah’s legs, resulting in a turnover.
“He got kinda down, so I just came over there and lifted him up and told him to move on to the next play,” Izaiha said.
When the two are playing with one another, there are certain things they enjoy that not a lot of teammates have the luxury of doing.
“I would say probably going home after the game and talking about it,” Izaiha said.
Added Elijah: “It would probably be just knowing what he can do and just giving him the ball when he needs it.”
Two years ago in 2019, Izaiha was just a sophomore who was dressed out for the state tournament on a roster filled with seniors ready to play at the college level. Elijah was a freshman who did get some varsity playing time early in the year, but at the state tournament, he was just another spectator cheering his brother on.
Neither played a significant role on the team that went on to beat Memphis East in the state title game. Neither will be a spectator this time around – they know it’s their turn.
If you asked Coach Parrott two years ago whether or not the two brothers would be key pieces to getting the team back to Murfreesboro, he wouldn’t have just hoped for it; he would have expected it.
“I mean that’s the expectation of any player that comes to Bearden, the expectation of any basketball player that comes to Bearden is they’re gonna follow suit from the teams that came before them,” Coach Parrott said. “Really felt like that class, that sophomore class (Izaiha’s class), was fairly strong.
“We were still feeling out the ninth grade class (Elijah’s class) that year, but yes, there was every expectation that the tenth grade group would be able to make a run.”
Being able to go to the state tournament is something very special that not a lot of people get to experience, but being able to go through the experience with someone you are extremely close to makes it that much more special.
“I think it means a lot, and it will mean more to them later on as it will all these young men who don’t realize what they’re about to undertake,” Coach Parrott said. “As long as you don’t allow the aura to overtake your purpose, then it becomes a really great experience that you’re gonna look back on. That’s a hard thing to do, the hardest thing in the world to do is to go into that atmosphere, and go into the venue, and to all the days that lead up to that trip, and not being overwhelmed by the circumstances, but being able to stay focused on why you are there, and that’s to win basketball games.
“I think they’re gonna appreciate being there together, but I’m hoping that both of them will understand the gravity of the moment. That we’re there to do what we’ve been doing all season and that’s being successful on the court.”
While going to state is a great experience, winning it all would make it mean that much more.
“It would mean so much because of all the stuff we’ve been through and all the work we put in, it would just mean a lot to pay off,” Elijah said.
Added Izaiha: “Was there my sophomore year and got to get one with them, and to get one with a different type of team (this year), it would feel great.”
Even better than those backyard pickup games as kids.