Gigi Bailey is not like most kids her age.
She is the best player on a very good Charlotte Christian basketball team, one of the best students in her school, a great teammate and a friendly, outgoing person. She is confident and well-spoken.
"She is special. The way she handles herself just blows me away," said Knights head coach Milton Carter. "You don't see a lot of kids that have it all together, but Gigi does."
The Knights (17-2 as of Feb. 3), ranked 12th in the Charlotte Observer's Sweet 16, are focused on winning the state title. Last year they lost late in the playoffs to Hickory Grove and are determined not to let it happen again.
"We understand how we are going to make it to the state championship. That is our goal, and we will not stop until we reach it," said Bailey.
Bailey, a 6-foot-4 sophomore center, leads the team in most stats and is second in the region in scoring at 21.5 points per game. She also averages 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals and anchors the area's second-ranked defense.
But the Knights' success isn't due solely to Bailey this year. Maryah Mazyck averages almost 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists a game and is Charlotte Christian's best outside shooter. Christal Barnett averages more than 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, and Michelle Brotherton contributes 8 points a game. But the offense and defense go through Bailey.
"Her stats are even down some this year because we didn't have the team we have this year," said Carter. "Last year she had to do it all; if she didn't have 20 points and 16 rebounds every game, we couldn't win. She doesn't have to do it all any more."
Bailey has drawn interest from colleges nationwide and has 32 scholarship offers already in the middle of her sophomore season. She said no college stands out as the front-runner yet, and she is in no hurry to make that decision.
"I am not leaning to anywhere in particular," Bailey said. "I am trying to watch their games and learning their systems and which ones will fit me best.
"Plus, the big thing is that it has to have the academics I need to be a doctor."
Bailey had a 4.6 GPA before report cards recently came out; she now has a 5.0. She likes working with kids and already has decided she wants to be a pediatrician.
"Books have always been important to me. I know I can't play basketball in college if I don't have good grades, so I always need something to fall back on in case I get injured, so my grades have always been important to me," Bailey said.
Carter said he understands his star player is the total package and is happy he is getting to work with her. In his 28 years of coaching, Carter has seen great players before: he coached NBA players Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Rafer Alston.
He knows Bailey is different than most star high school athletes. He said he is certain she will make a great college player at a major Division I program.
"A lot of times young players will get rattled and get nervous, but I don't see that with Gigi. I see her get aggressive and talking with her teammates, telling them to get going. That is her specialty. She is a special person and player," Carter said.
Bailey, who plays AAU ball with the Charlotte 76ers Elite, attends camps and is always working to improve her game.
"I know God has given me this talent and I have to do what I can with it. I help get my teammates involved, but I also know when it is time to get mine and take the game over," Bailey said.
Unfortunately for opponents, Bailey will be around for two more years competing for state championships and scooping up individual accolades. Last year, as a freshman, she was all-conference and all-state and made the Observer's All-Mecklenburg County Team.
After her time at Christian is up, said Bailey, she wants people to remember her as more than a student athlete.
"I want to be remembered as a competitor, but humble on the court and a great teammate. I try to talk to everyone and don't have just one group of friends. I try to be as nice as I can to all people," Bailey said.