Lead vocalist sets tone for Indiana team
Five days of school had been called off, two games had been wiped out and Alexa Bailey was worried the Bedford North Lawrence (Ind.) girls' basketball team might slip during the snowstorm.
So the 5-foot-8 junior point guard and Butler recruit picked up her phone and sent out a group text.
Practice, my house, stat.
Sure, Bailey can be bossy at times, but it's for the good of the team. And since district rules prevent coaches from being involved in practices when school is canceled, somebody had to take charge.
Who better than the coach's daughter? Especially when that coach is the legendary Damon Bailey. And their home includes a half-court gym attached to the garage.
"It made us better knowing that we could handle ourselves without Damon there," said 6-1 junior forward Dominique McBryde, a Purdue recruit and the No. 20 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class. "It brought us closer together."
Jenna Allen, a 6-2 junior center who has committed to Indiana, said Alexa was the obvious person to take control.
"We have a lot of leaders, but Alexa does a lot of the vocal stuff to keep us focused," Allen said. "If you do something wrong, Alexa will make sure you know about it."
As it happens, the BNL Stars (13-0) don't do much wrong. They have won 41 games in a row and earned the large-school, Class 4A state title last season with a 28-0 record.
This season, the Stars are 13th nationally in the espnW 25 Power Rankings and have a big game Friday at No. 8 Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.), which lost in overtime last season to the Stars.
Bedford North Lawrence brought back the top eight players from last season's team, and Damon Bailey, who is in his first year as a head coach after serving as an assistant on that squad, feels he has all the pieces to lead BNL to another championship.
McBryde and Allen are the inside forces, both averaging a team-high 16 points. The guards -- who also serve as tri-captains -- are Alexa Bailey, 5-2 senior Sammy Dillman and 5-6 senior Brittani Rizzi.
Rizzi led the state with 90 3-pointers last season and, along with Dillman, provides the bulk of the team's perimeter shooting. They are averaging 9.8 and 6.1 points, respectively.
Bailey is averaging 5.9 points but can step up when needed. Case in point was last season's state final, when she tied McBryde with a team-high 19 points in a 54-51 win over Fort Wayne South Side.
It was BNL's first girls' basketball state title since 1991.
Coach Bailey said all five of his starters are capable of big games.
"Earlier this year, Jennings County [North Vernon, Ind.] played us zone, and Brittani had six 3-pointers in the first quarter," he said. "When the defense adjusted, we went back inside to Jenna and Dominique.
"I think our girls understand who is hot and who has the advantage. This is a very unselfish group."
Much of the team chemistry has been developed at the Bailey house.
It was in the Bailey basement during last season's playoff run where the players filmed their rendition of the Harlem Shake.
The Baileys have also hosted team dinners and holiday parties. And the Bailey home gym has become a favorite hangout for many of the players.
"When we get bored or frustrated, we can go down there and shoot, talk and hang out," Alexa Bailey said. "Other people have different stress relievers. For me, I go there and shoot."
Allen, who has a short commute, is a regular there as well.
"I just go past some trees and a little brush area," Allen said. "I can throw a baseball from my back door, and it would probably hit her house."
Allen and Bailey have known each other since fourth grade, when the former moved from Chicago to Bedford, a town of about 13,500 located halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.
Both girls come from basketball backgrounds. Allen's parents met at DePaul University, where her dad, 6-4 guard Jeff Allen, played with Jenna's maternal uncle, 6-11 center Brett Burkholder.
Jeff is now an assistant coach on the BNL team.
Meanwhile, Bailey's father was made famous, in part, by John Feinstein's book "A Season on the Brink." In the book, Indiana coach Bobby Knight said Bailey, then in the eighth grade, could play for him right then.
Bailey went on to win a state title as a senior at Bedford North Lawrence. It still stands as the only boys' basketball state title in BNL history.
He then starred at Indiana, and although he never made it in the NBA, his love affair with basketball continues. Besides Alexa, his middle child, Loren, is a sophomore reserve on his BNL varsity team and his son, Brayton, is a sixth-grader who also aspires to play big-time basketball. The family's matriarch, Stacey, is a former BNL cheerleader.
Growing up around basketball as she has, perhaps it is no surprise that Alexa is her team's vocal leader.
"She can get under your skin a little bit," McBryde said. "During games and practices, she tells you where you should be or what you should be doing. She makes you want to choke her sometimes, but she knows best -- just like her dad.
"Most teenagers like myself think: 'I'm the boss of me -- you can't tell me what to do.' Then along comes Alexa, who is such a bold leader for her age. No one really does that like her.
"When I get to college, I will probably miss Alexa's bossiness on the court. I hate it now, but I will probably miss it when she is not there."