High School Sports

Girls’ basketball player from Charlotte arguably among best amateurs in the world

Providence Day star Janelle Bailey (left) and point guard Kennedy Boyd (right) hope to lead their team to yet another state title. Bailey played for her country this summer and won a bronze medal. She has committed to play at UNC next year.
Providence Day star Janelle Bailey (left) and point guard Kennedy Boyd (right) hope to lead their team to yet another state title. Bailey played for her country this summer and won a bronze medal. She has committed to play at UNC next year. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Janelle Bailey steps on the basketball court with a collection of awards and accomplishments that dwarfs even her 6-foot-4 presence.

She is a three-time all-state player and arguably one of the best female basketball players of her age group in the world. But that is history, Bailey says, and history is … well …

“History is the past,” says Bailey, cornerstone of the Providence Day girls’ basketball team that seeks its eighth straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship this season. “What happened last year is last year. It’s time to open a new page.”

The new page this season will cast Bailey in a role different than the one she played last year, when the Chargers compiled a 27-2 record. Four seniors, including some major-college recruits, graduated from that team.

“Seventy percent of our team is freshmen and sophomores, and 60 percent of our players weren’t on the squad last year,” head coach Josh Springer says.

So that puts Bailey – an intimidating presence near the basket but capable of moving the ball down the court like a guard – in the added role of teacher.

“Sometimes I go into coach mode,” says Bailey, who ended a spirited recruiting campaign for her college services by committing during the summer to North Carolina. “I try to use my strength as a vocal leader.”

Springer tells the story of how, during a recent practice, he was working with two of the younger players on a drill. When he turned around, Bailey was coaching two other young players on how the drill works.

“The reality is that we’ll rely a lot on her this year,” Springer says.

The Chargers also have returning regulars in senior Emily Smith, junior Kennedy Boyd, and sophomore Jacquelyn Ives. But Bailey is the centerpiece.

After averaging 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in her junior season, she was selected to the United States team for the FIBA U17 World Championships during the summer in Zaragoza, Spain. Bailey averaged 9.3 points and 9.1 points a game against the world’s top competition, helping the U.S. team to a third-place finish.

In the semifinal loss to eventual champion Australia, Bailey had a team-high 11 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor. Her teammates shot 28 percent against the Australians.

“My basketball IQ definitely grew,” Bailey says of the international experience. “The pace of the game was different. And they don’t call illegal screens. I learned a lot.”

Bailey gives off a feeling that she is unwilling to take things for granted.

“Nothing is given to you,” she says.

Her older sister, Gisele (or GiGi), set career scoring records at Charlotte Christian and went to Harvard – only to have her basketball career cut short by a hip injury. GiGi Bailey never played a college game, although she became a team manager.

The two sisters are close, and Janelle Bailey says, “Family is important to me.”

She talks about wanting to improve her mid-range shot selection and her ability to rebound better when the ball is outside her established territory. She says she doesn’t believe Providence Day’s accomplishments, which include 95 straight victories against Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association opponents, will intimidate the teams they play.

“We have to play well in every game and improve one step at a time, whether it’s an individual layup or winning a game,” she says.

“You see that she’s 6-foot-4, that she’s physically intimidating,” Springer says. “But that impression lasts five seconds. The impression that lasts is how well she understands the game … how well she sees plays unfold. She’s a special player.”

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