North Carolina women's basketball senior center Janelle Bailey has been selected as one of 30 nominees for the women’s basketball 2020-21 Senior CLASS Award.
In order to qualify for the list, a candidate must be an NCAA Division I senior and demonstrate accomplishments in community, classroom, character and competition.
“When you get nominated for this award, it just goes to show what you’ve done over the past three years,” Bailey said. “I just want to carry that for the rest of the season.”
Bailey, who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season, has started for UNC throughout her four-year career in Chapel Hill. When head coach Courtney Banghart was hired two years ago, Bailey was an experienced sophomore already equipped with a high basketball IQ.
“Obviously, when you’re taking over a program where you’ve had to make some changes there, that’s where there’s not a lot of experience,” Banghart said. “It’s just great to have someone in the trenches who has significant impact every year she’s been here.”
With former coach Sylvia Hatchell’s departure and Banghart’s arrival in 2019, the UNC women’s basketball team was undergoing its own changes. Many familiar faces left the program and new ones filled their place. The 2020-21 team has five first-years and a second-year coach at the helm, a contrast from when Bailey was recruited by Hatchell, who had been with the team for 33 seasons.
Bailey’s leadership has been vital for Banghart and the team throughout the last year. Jaelynn Murray, Bailey’s close friend and teammate who has also been with the program for four years, said Bailey's impact on the team goes beyond the court.
“It’s very heartwarming just to have someone who’s so passionate about the game and knows so much,” Murray said. “Being around someone like that just makes everyone better.”
Through major changes in the program, Bailey’s presence as a leader on the team has been crucial for her teammates. She said she's learned to be understanding and patient with her teammates, as well as pushing them to play their best.
“I want to make sure they’re comfortable and not nervous, but just having fun,” Bailey said. “I just want to be able to help them in different ways.”
Off the court, Bailey has continued to seek ways to help in the community through service and volunteering. Throughout the season, each player on the team has had a week to present information on a social issue of their choosing to the rest of the team. During her week, Bailey highlighted mental health as her cause.
“I’m just trying to find ways to leave an impact on whatever’s left on my college career and finding a way to speak on stuff like mental health,” Bailey said. “I feel like having a platform, you have to find a way to have your voice heard and speak out about things that matter.”
As someone who has been a leader within UNC through constant change, Bailey will likely have a long-lasting impact on the program. While reflecting on how the Senior CLASS Award nomination will affect the rest of her career, Bailey recalled the words of her high school coach to describe her thoughts on the future.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present,” Bailey said.