First-year Janelle Bailey has been widely regarded for her abilities on the basketball court.
Bailey, a former McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit, has already imprinted a significant impact on the North Carolina women’s basketball team.
Before the Tar Heels’ home game against Furman on Sunday afternoon, Bailey’s abilities were recognized once again. The 6-foot-4 first-year forward was presented as the 2017 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, an honor given to many current and retired WNBA All Stars, such as Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Lisa Leslie. Bailey adds to a long list of women’s basketball legends that have spanned since the trophy’s inception in 1980.
“USA Basketball has meant a lot to me," Bailey said, "and to be on that list with those players truly means a lot."
Due to Bailey’s award ceremony prior to the game, head coach Sylvia Hatchell wore her USA Basketball pin and gold medal ring for the occasion, which she received while serving as an assistant coach for the national team back in 1986 and 1988.
“I did all of this today in honor of Janelle and USA Basketball,” Hatchell said. “It’s really a great honor for her.”
Bailey, a native of Matthews, N.C., was an integral component for the United States in its run towards a gold medal at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup in China earlier this summer.
She was also an instrumental member of the 2017 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team that competed in Spain, where she averaged 9.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for a group that would end up finishing with a 6-1 record, earning the bronze medal at the event. Bailey credits the time that she spent with USA Basketball as a major piece for her development as a player.
“(USA Basketball) has helped grow my game a lot,” Bailey said. “I definitely credit them for helping develop my fundamentals and basketball IQ, so this award means so much to me.”
In UNC’s game against Furman, Bailey had 12 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of action in the Tar Heels’ 84-56 win. Through ten games into the season, Bailey has averaged 14.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Even with these impressive numbers as a first-year, Bailey admits that the transition from the high school to the collegiate level has not always been smooth, as it has taken time for her to adjust to the speed and the physicality of the college game.
“I think that is a part of the process — staying calm the whole time, being patient, and knowing everything is going to work out for the best," she said.
However with plenty of the season remaining, Bailey is trying to simply just take her first-year as a Tar Heel with a slow stride.
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