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Former University High star Brett Bailey still sports San Diego blue, even in Gonzaga country

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 2, 2018

Former San Diego player Brett Bailey watches the Gonzaga game with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Rueschenberg, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Former San Diego player Brett Bailey watches the Gonzaga game with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Rueschenberg, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Brett Bailey might be Spokane bred, but he wouldn’t be caught in Gonzaga colors nowadays – especially when the Toreros are in town.

“I was here since middle school, so I mean, I was a fan of GU, but once you go to a school you can’t turn against it,” the former San Diego star said Thursday. “I’m all USD all the way.”

Proudly wearing his San Diego shirt, Bailey arrived early at the McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Toreros fell to Gonzaga 69-59. Before tipoff, he stepped into the middle of San Diego’s shootaround and embraced some old friends.

“Those guys are like brothers to me,” Bailey said of the current San Diego squad. “It’s been good seeing the guys again. I love hanging out with them.”

It was the second time Bailey had seen his former teammates play after traveling to San Diego earlier in the season.

Bailey, who graduated from University High as one of the Titans’ top all-time shooters, played four years at San Diego before graduating in 2017.

Following his collegiate career, Bailey signed with MZT Skopje, a club based in the Republic of Macedonia. He played for roughly a month before deciding to return to Spokane to pursue a career in finance.

“It was fun. It was a totally different world than over here. You’ve got the wild crowd, the rowdy crowds,” Bailey said. “But I just decided it wasn’t for me.”

Bailey was U-Hi’s firecracker from 2009-2013. He guided the Titans to back-to-back State 3A tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, the first time University had reached state since 1985.

In his final seasons, he made a lasting impression on the Greater Spokane League.

Midway through his senior season, Bailey broke the GSL record for most points scored in a game with 47 against Rogers. Dave Wood of Rogers held the previous record of 46 points, set in 1971 without the 3-point line.

Bailey finished his career as U-Hi’s all-time leading scorer with 1,300 points, surpassing the previous record by nearly 250 points. He ranks sixth among all-time leading scorers in league points, scoring 972 total points in GSL games.

His performance at U-Hi, particularly in his final two seasons, earned him local- and state-wide recognition.

He was voted the Most Valuable Player of the GSL and named to the all-GSL team and the all-state first team.

His success in Spokane followed him to San Diego. In his final season at USD, Bailey averaged 15.6 points and shot 43.4 percent from the field. He averaged 3.1 3-pointers in 31 games for the Toreros, who finished seventh in the West Coast Conference last season with a 6-12 record.

This season’s team, 6-5 in the WCC following Thursday’s loss, is tied with Pacific for fourth place, despite being picked sixth in the preseason polls.

San Diego has also played some of the best defense in the country and it showed against Gonzaga. For the majority of the night it was a one-possession game before the Zags finally pulled away late in the second half.

San Diego’s defense, which led the country in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (27.5) before Thursday, was a redesign by third-year coach Lamont Smith. Bailey was part of that redesign in his final two years under Smith.

On Thursday, Bailey said it appeared that Smith’s “new system” was finally in full force.

“I think this is a glimpse of what it’s going to be like for the next three or four years, and will progressively get better,” Bailey said.

Bailey went through the Toreros for tickets and watched the majority of the game from his seat just behind the San Diego bench.

He said he isn’t planning on leaving the Spokane area anytime soon, meaning he’ll be in the hunt for Gonzaga tickets at least once a year.

But only when the Toreros are in town.

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