A Silverswords Star To Watch
Nothing thrills an old basketball player like the opportunity to toss in a few buckets with a much younger (and much better) hoops star. That was the case earlier this month, when I teamed up with Chaminade point guard Lee Bailey at Boys & Girls Club in Honolulu for an impromptu game against the after-school kids. We had a fabulous time.
It was all part of our annual PacWest SAAC Retreat, where student-athlete leaders from all over the conference come together to work with youngsters from elementary school through junior high. Bailey is president of Chaminade Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and has been involved with projects at the local Boys & Girls Club a number of times.
“Seeing the kids and working with them is a tremendous experience,” he says. “For many of them, we can be a really positive role model.”
Bailey is a communications and marketing major at Chaminade who has earned all-academic honors in each of his three years at the school. He hopes to have a career in sports advertising or sports management some day, but he also may have a chance to coach or play basketball professionally overseas once his collegiate days are over.
Bailey enters his senior basketball season for Silverswords as one of the top guards in the country when practice officially begins Oct. 15. He’s scored 30 or more points several times in his career and leads the team in minutes played. This past year, he led Chaminade to the PacWest Tournament championship, a spot in the NCAA Division II West Regionals and was named All-Conference and All-Region.
“Winning the PacWest tourney this past season was No. 1 on my list,” he recalls. “Being there (in San Diego) and cutting down the nets after we fought through so much adversity during the year was the best experience ever.”
No. 2, he says, involves the tournament that “the Giant-Killers” from Chaminade are known for each November — Maui Invitational. “Beating (nationally ranked) Texas the way we did — that was crazy,” he says. “It was also the first time my mom and sister got a chance to see me play in Hawaii.”
Next month, they open up on Maui against powerful Pittsburgh (and former Hawaii assistant coach Jamie Dixon).
Bailey grew up in Detroit, where he is part of a very athletic family. His mom and dad were track and field stars at Michigan and Central Michigan, and his sister is an outstanding volleyball player. Bailey was a tremendous high school football and basketball player, and appeared headed to Dayton University to play defensive back.
“I loved both sports, but had decided to play football. When the (scholarship) money eventually didn’t work out, I thought I would check out basketball opportunities again,” he recalls. Late that spring in his high school senior year, Eric Bovaird was named the new head coach at Chaminade. The first player he recruited was Bailey.
“I had never been to Hawaii, but after hearing his enthusiasm, I decided to take a chance,” he says. “It was the best decision ever. I’ve had so many opportunities here, and I’ve learned so much about the different cultures and the different places we play. I took a leap of faith and it worked out really well.”
Bailey not only loves Hawaii, but also the freedom he enjoys in Bovaird’s high-scoring offensive system.
“He’s always so positive and he gives us confidence in ourselves. I started here as the youngest guy, and now I’m one of the older guys. It’s my job to make the younger guys comfortable, encourage them, build their confidence and lead by example. I can hardly wait,” he says.
Lee Bailey is ready. Hoop fans, young and old, take notice.