Brett Bailey led the University Titans to a second straight trip to the state Class 3A basketball tournament as a high school senior.
Now Bailey is a senior at the University of San Diego. The 6-foot-6 forward for the Toreros is having the kind of season many predicted for him way back when.
“I think it’s about maturing as a person,” Bailey said. “It’s about the new coaching staff having a lot of confidence in me as the lone senior on this team. There’s something about having the coach call your number late in a game that gives you a tremendous amount of confidence.”
In the four-game stretch heading into Wednesday’s game with Southern Cal, Bailey took his game to a new level.
In an 88-68 loss to 16th-ranked UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, Bailey scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Three nights later, in an 81-72 win over Nicholls State, he put up 19 points. In a triple-overtime thriller against Bethune-Cookman, Bailey scored 11 of his personal-best 26 points in the three overtime periods to lead the Toreros to a 96-91 victory. He followed that up with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a 56-51 loss to New Mexico State.
“We lost a lot of players from last year’s team, so everyone has to kind of take on a new and different role,” Bailey said. “I’m trying to step up as a senior and be a leader for our team.”
At one point, he even called himself “the old man of this team.”
“Yeah,” he laughed. “I’m not really comfortable with that term.”
But it’s a role he’s played before.
Notably at U-Hi, where he averaged 23 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior – including a Greater Spokane League-record 47-point night against Rogers.
In a great many ways, Bailey is rooted in his life in Spokane and his experience at University.
“I grew up in Spokane,” he said. “I grew up playing basketball and Spokane is a bit of a basketball town. Both my mom and dad played college basketball at Seattle U and I grew up watching Gonzaga.
“We watched Gonzaga take on great teams, so when you get the chance to play in a place like Pauley Pavilion it’s pretty special. My time here at San Diego has been a blessing so far – just the experience so far has been overwhelming. It’s been a lot of fun just keeping the team’s goals in the forefront of your mind and it’s nice to do well and succeed in your craft.”
Bailey stays in close touch with his friends and family back home. He regularly trades texts with his high school coach, Garrick Phillips, and the U-Hi coaching staff.
“They text me after every win and they text me after every loss,” he said. “They do a great job of pointing out the things I do right and they encourage me to work on the things that I’m not doing right.”
Phillips said the most important message he’s sent his player concerns his approach to the game.
“We’ve been really getting on him about being more aggressive,” he said.
“That’s definitely helped me,” Bailey said. “I think that’s made a big difference.”
Phillips said he appreciates how Bailey always drops by the gym when he’s in town to talk to the next generation of Titans.
“That’s a relationship I plan on maintaining,” Bailey said. “That coaching staff is a close-knit group and I plan on staying in touch with them for a lifetime.”
That includes finding tickets for family and friends whenever the Toreros play Gonzaga in the Kennel.
“I definitely hear from a lot of friends before one of those games,” he laughed. “Some friends I haven’t heard from in a long time. Family always comes first, but I have to say that I really appreciate the way San Diego comes through and helps us out with tickets whenever we play close to home.”
Bailey was recruited to San Diego by former Gonzaga assistant coach Bill Grier. After Bailey’s sophomore season Grier was fired and replaced by Lamont Smith.
Bailey said the young Toreros and the coaching staff are beginning to come together as planned.
“I can’t say we’re where we should be right now, but we’re definitely on the way to getting there,” he said. “In this (West Coast) Conference you’re always aware of the Big Three (Gonzaga, Brigham Young and Saint Mary’s), and your goal is to get up there and unseat one of those three teams. That’s our goal.
“I think you’re seeing glimpses of how good we can be. You could see that in the first half against UCLA, and I think the overtime win was a turning point for us. We still need to put together two good halves, and we’re getting there.”
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