Lake Norman & Mooresville

Senior thrives in new role for Eagles

Coach Terry Batts has always been tough on Kourtney Hailey , whether he is coaching her with his SouthLake Christian varsity basketball team or his AAU team, the Lady Phoenix.

For the last two seasons, Hailey, who began her career at Independence High, has been a big part of both of Batts' teams and, in the process, has been molded into one of the top guards in the Lake Norman area, according to her coach.

Hailey, 17, is averaging 18 points and five assists per game on a SouthLake Christian team (11-6, 5-0) that leads the Metrolina Athletic conference.

"Coach Batts' style is to constantly be on you and pushing you to get better at everything you do on the basketball court," Hailey said. "If you're good at one thing, he wants you to work on your weaknesses. It's not always fun to be yelled at, but he is always looking out for his players and trying to make us as good as we can be."

Hailey first played for Batts as a sophomore on the Lady Phoenix AAU team. After her parents decided they wanted her to go to private school for her final two high school years, SouthLake Christian became one of the logical options with Batts also taking the head coaching job there that year.

"My parents wanted me to go to private school mainly for academic reasons," said Hailey, who made the varsity at Independence as a freshman. "At first, I was nervous about switching schools, but being able to play for Coach Batts helped a lot."

Hailey had an quick impact at SouthLake Christian last year.

She joined an already talented team, headlined by 6-foot-3 junior center Brianne Mack, and led the Eagles in scoring at 17 points per game while also earning all-conference honors in the process. Hailey found a lot of openings on the wing and from beyond the arc, with constant double and triple teams on Mack.

SouthLake also had one of their best seasons in the school's history, going 22-8 overall and making a trip to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A state quarterfinals.

"Kourtney came in and did a great job for us last year," Batts said. "But I knew she would have an even bigger role this year, and I was confident that she could handle it."

Batts moved Hailey to the point guard position for this, her senior season.

After establishing herself as a prolific outside shooter in the past, Hailey has expanded her game a lot over the last season, as she now regularly drives to the hoop and even has incorporated floaters into her repertoire.

Hailey has had big outbursts like a 28-point game last week against Covenant Day, 25 vs. Metrolina Christian and 24 points against Gaston Day.

"I knew I wanted to step up this year, being a senior," Hailey said. "Having the ball in my hands and playing the point guard has made that a little bit easier. I feel like I am responsible for not creating offense for myself but also for my teammates. That is a big responsibility."

Hailey has directed a team that is not only first place in their league, but also has big nonconference wins against Cannon School, Charlotte Country Day and Wilmington Hoggard.

Now, Hailey and the Eagles are in the meat of their MAC slate, where they hope to overcome reigning champion First Assembly and win a conference title.

While a lot of pressure is on Hailey's shoulder, she also has a lot of help with Mack (20 points, 16 rebounds per game) in the middle and shooters like Giselle Verville (14 ppg) and Anna Landis (10 ppg) on the wings.

"It's a wonderful thing to have shooters like Anna and Giselle and then a 6-foot-3 center in the middle," Hailey said.

Hailey hopes to help lead her team deeper into the postseason and in the process earn a college scholarship.

She has major interest from two Division I schools - USC Upstate and Kennesaw State - and is also currently visiting some Division II and III schools on the weekends.

"No matter where I go," said Hailey. "I definitely know I will be ready."