GARDNER — Since she started her freshman season at PikeView High School, Shiloh Bailey has been one of the tallest, strongest and most-talked-about girls basketball players in Four Seasons Country.
When she wraps up her high school playing career at the end of this season, she intends to wrap up her basketball playing career for good.
Even though she’s been given serious looks by more than one college basketball program, Bailey has no plans of playing basketball at the next level. When her senior season is finished, she intends that to mark the end of her involvement as a player in the game in which she earned some measure of regional fame.
“After this year, I think I’m done with basketball,” said the powerful six-foot post, who passed the 1,000-point career scoring barrier last week in a 63-35 win over Oak Hill.
“It’s taken a toll on my body. I probably sound like an old lady saying that, but it really has. I’ve decide to focus on my future career. I want to go on and be a physical therapist. I plan on going to Concord (University) and majoring in biology and go to physical therapy school after that,” she said.
Several nagging chronic injuries started asserting themselves toward the end of last season. This year, the pain has been relentless, she said.
“We had three games this week and heck, I can barely make it off the couch this morning,” Bailey said with a sardonic chuckle.
“It’s rough. I’ve made that decision and I think it would be best to focus on my future. I love basketball, but I think it would be best for me not to continue,” said Bailey.
“It was a hard decision for me to make. I prayed about it for guidance and I just feel that’s the way I need to go,” she said.
Her playing days aren’t over yet. She is “all in” for her final season at PikeView and remains highly motivated by both personal and team goals.
Bailey is averaging a double-double this season: 10.8 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game. It is possible that before the season runs out she could have a career double-thousand. She believes that 1,000 career rebounds with the Panthers can be achieved within the time frame of this season.
“I’m not completely sure, but it’s not that many,” said Bailey, who pulled down a season-high 28 boards against Tazewell earlier this season.
“It would be crazy. I didn’t realize how close I was in rebounds until I looked at the beginning of the season. It would definitely be pretty cool to do,” she said.
At the same time, she approaches the prospect of 1,000 rebounds with very nearly the same mindset that preceded scoring her 1,000th point. She tries not to dwell on it.
“It really wasn’t a big deal to me, I knew I would get (1,000 points) at some point before the season ended and I wasn’t really worried about it. But I am glad that I got it out of the way because it’s like a weight being lifted off my chest. Now I don’t have to worry about it. It’s behind me,” Bailey said.
She feels the same ambivalence about her career rebounding numbers. She wants the boards, but does not want to be reckless about pursuing them. If she’s out there, she figures she’ll get the rebounds she needs to reach her career goal. She doesn’t need foul trouble.
“If I’m not in position and I can’t get my hand up above opposing teams, then I just know to get back and play defense or offense, defending on the side of the ball it’s on. I don’t know. I’ve learned to slide in and move around opposing players to work my way in to get the ball,” said Bailey, who admitted that she was more prone to throw caution to the wind using her physical advantage when she was a younger player.
Her concerns about foul trouble aren’t merely a sign of her increased maturity in the sport. It’s also an indication of how urgently her teammates need her to do so. The Lady Panthers varsity was only seven players deep at the beginning of the season. Having veteran guard Makenzee Shrewsbury on the injured list doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error.
“We don’t have a very deep bench. This is my senior year and we haven’t had a deep bench really, since my freshman year. We don’t have very many subs to come in,” said Bailey, who said the team harbors lofty goals.
“I think that it’s possible for us to be sectional champions and go our regional champions if we get our mind right and work together as a team and play how we can,” Bailey said.
“We’re expecting a lot out of our sophomore guard Hannah Purdue. Makenzee Shrewsbury is out with an ankle injury and at first it was a big adjustment trying to get everybody on the same page. But she’s really stepping it up. We have Anyah Brown coming in off the bench every game. She comes in and does what she needs to do. She has been such a tremendous help.
“The rest of our senior girls — we know what we’re capable of and we play off of each other. We’re working hard right now to get to where we want to go. We would love to make it upstate this year and I think that’s possible,” Bailey said. “We’re expecting (Shrewsbury) to come back within the next few weeks and be stronger than ever. I feel like we’re ready to go out with a bang. It’s now or never for us.”
When it’s all over, she’ll say goodbye to her playing career, but not necessarily goodbye to basketball. Bailey still loves the game and doesn’t expect to fall out of love with it.
“I would eventually like to coach. It’s a great thing to be able to lead people and teach them ... not only from a basketball perspective, but to be there for them,” Bailey said.
“I’ve had a lot of basketball coaches guide me and push me in the right direction. I feel that I’d like to be able to do that ... to help people any way I can.”
Contact George Thwaites at firstname.lastname@example.org