By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun
4:27 PM EST, February 15, 2012
With a versatile game that mixes a little small forward and a lot of point guard with her natural shooting guard abilities, Imani Bailey leads a Meade girls basketball team that has dominated Anne Arundel County and appears headed for a second straight trip to the District V championship against the Howard County champ.
Bailey, a 5-foot-8 senior, averages 23.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 4.8 steals per game for the No. 6 Mustangs (15-5). An AAU veteran, she was coached by her father in her early years. The 17-year-old has a 3.5 GPA and plans to become a nurse. After her initial commitment to La Salle, she changed her mind and signed in November to play college basketball at Howard.
How did you get started playing basketball?
When I was 7, I played soccer and I was pretty good at that. My dad would work my brother out, and I wanted to dribble like my brother, so I picked up a ball one day and just fell in love with it.
What are the pros and cons of having a coach for a dad?
At first, in middle school, I hated it. I did not like him. I wanted to quit because it was so hard and he never had a favorite. He basically yelled at me the most. I had a birthday party, and he scheduled a game on that day. I was like, "I hate basketball." But looking back, I'm glad I played. I'm glad he was there.
Do you look to him for advice?
Yes, I always come to my dad. He works me out. He's basically my trainer.
Do you ever butt heads?
Not anymore. We're really close now.
What's your role on this Meade team?
My role is to be the leader, to pick everyone up and to give them confidence. We are a team.
You play point guard a lot and you score a lot of points, how do you keep everybody happy in that role?
With my game, I'm very unselfish. I look to pass first and I tell my team I have confidence in them. That's why I look to pass first and shoot second.
You take a lot of 3-point shots. What do you like about the long 3-pointers?
Since I was 9, I used to shoot from way behind the 3-point line. It all started off with me and my father. We used to play around shooting all the way back there and I just love shooting from out there.
What's the best part of your game?
My passing. I don't work on it that much, it just comes.
What are you working to get better at?
Playing defense, lateral movement, because at the college level, it's way faster.
What is your goal for this season?
My goal is to make it to states.
What's it going to take to get there?
We've got to believe in ourselves and never give up and take no one lightly.
What's been the key to the success of this team?
I think since we got Diamond Henson, it takes a lot of weight off me and Jamie [McKeither], and we have help. Chenelle Witty's back and Jana Williams. Diamond didn't play last year, and having her really helps.
You've played some very good teams, such as Riverdale Baptist and No. 1 Aberdeen, and lost to them. How did those experiences play into where the team is at this point?
It prepared us for counties. When we lost, no one likes losing, so we just took it as an experience that made us better and we had to come back stronger.
Why do you want to be a nurse?
A neo-natal nurse. Since I was young, I've always liked babies and I've been really good with babies, so I always wanted to be that.
Why did you decide to play college ball at Howard?
All my life I loved Howard. I always wanted to go there. It was my dream college. Coach Niki [Reid Geckeler], I always liked her — and the school atmosphere.
How do you think your game will translate to the college game?
I think I'm going to play shooting guard. I think I'm going to get really good in college, my game is going to change.
When did you finally commit to Howard?
When I went to La Salle, I guess the college really got to me and I chose too quickly. The following week, it felt like I had made the wrong decision. I did not want to go there. I committed to La Salle Labor Day weekend. That was my first official college visit. Then I talked to my dad and I told him, "I don't think I chose the right school" and he said, "Follow your heart," and I did. I called up Coach [Jeff] Williams and told him I wanted to decommit and then I talked to coach Nikki.
What has been your best basketball moment?
I think the nationals [AAU]. I think it was 7th grade. We finished fourth in the country and usually we never made it that far. We actually got a trophy. And scoring my 1,000th point.
Are you disappointed there haven't been any snow days this winter?
I'm kind of mad. Going to school, waking up early, sometimes you just want to sleep in.
What's your most prized possession and why?
My phone. It's everything. It's got my pictures, all my numbers, everything.
Who do you look up to?
My mother. She's strong, independent and hard working. Actually, both my parents.
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