Janelle Bailey knew she had big shoes to fill for the Providence Day girls’ basketball team the minute last season ended with a 45-20 win over Greensboro Day that gave the Chargers a fifth straight NCISAA 3A state championship.
The 6-foot-3 center earned all-state honors as a freshman, averaging 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
At the same time, then senior Jatarie White (21.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg), the two-time N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American, was finishing off one of the most accomplished careers in school history.
With White now alongside former Providence Day star Tiffany Mitchell on the No. 1 South Carolina girls’ basketball team, Bailey had to take on a lead role for the Chargers.
Bailey, 15, has the size and talent to help carry on the Chargers’ championship tradition.
“With every great player we have had here, I think it is important for Janelle to take her own path,” said Providence Day girls’ basketball coach Josh Springer, who is in his eighth season with the Chargers. “There’s never going to be another Tiffany Mitchell. There’s never going to be another Jatarie White. So, it’s important that she just focuses on being the best Janelle Bailey that she can be.”
Bailey says her focus is constantly on moving forward.
“Having Jatarie by my side all last year really helped a lot, not just physically going against her every day in practice, but also mentally on and off the court. She taught so much about what to work on and what to do and what not to do,” said Bailey. “But this is a new season. Every year we have to forget about what happened last year. That was last year and things change.”
Bailey’s older sister, Gisele “GiGi” Bailey, was a four-time all-state performer on the Charlotte Christian girls’ basketball team. GiGi, who stands 6-foot-3 and is the all-time leading scorer at Christian (more than 1,900 points), is now a team manager for the Harvard women’s basketball team.
“I’ve always strived to better than GiGi, but it’s going to be hard because she’s always played a such a high level,” Janelle Bailey said. “Hopefully one day I will be better than her.”
Bailey is off to a good start this season, averaging a double-double with 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds against tough competition.
Bailey had 22 points and 11 rebounds in a season opening win over Wesleyan Christian, 28 points and seven boards in a 45-43 loss to Ardrey Kell, and 18 points and 13 rebounds in a win over East Hall (Ga.).
In Tuesday’s game against Greensboro Day, Bailey had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
But it is not all about numbers for Bailey. She is working tirelessly on expanding her game, improving her defense, jump shooting, and ability to drive to the basket.
Springer says another big reason for her improvements is her daily work with Charger assistants David Johnson, who played basketball at Hampton University, and Nicole Okubanjo, who played at Barry (Fla.) University.
“Our coaches are always trying to make things as uncomfortable as possible in practices and workouts, so when the games come no matter what happens on the court we are as comfortable as we can be in any situation,” said Bailey, who is already on the recruiting radar of many Division I teams, according to Springer. “That really keeps you working hard. My goal is to get a little better every day and leave the court better than I was the day before.”
The Chargers are also getting contributions from forward Erin Whalen (16 ppg) and guards Dani Brown, Izzy Gallant, Celine Ives and Kennedy Boyd.
“For us, it’s always about the team not one or two players,” Bailey said. “None of us can be the players we want to be without our teammates. We have to put five players out on the court and everyone has to play their role.”
The Chargers will be going for a sixth straight state title this season, and the 10th in 11 years.
“We try to cultivate any environment where we are passionate about basketball every day,” said Springer. “We want people who are extremely passionate about basketball.
“One thing I know about the entire Bailey family is that they love basketball. They will go to high school games, college games, pro games and they study the game constantly. I don’t think they can get enough basketball. Janelle has that same passion for the game and that is what drives her. To be a great player, you have to truly love every minute of it.”