By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
The overwhelming consensus is that Master’s senior Brooke Bailey possesses long-range capabilities rare among her peers.
“She’s the best shooter in the country and I’m not biased,” TMU point guard Sabrina Thompson says.
Said guard Hannah Ostrom, “She forces teams to defend her from the three. Otherwise, she’ll make them pay.”
The following endorsement sets Bailey apart in another, perhaps more meaningful, way. She is the fifth member of her immediate family to play college basketball, and she’s gleaned plenty from the experience of her parents and two older brothers. But, there’s one skill in which she has surpassed them all.
“She is by far the purest shooter in our family,” says Kyle, the Baileys’ oldest child who played at Biola University in La Mirada and Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. Brett, the middle child, was an all-conference performer at the University of San Diego before a brief professional career overseas. And parents Kevin and Donna met at Seattle University where they played in the 1980s. Kevin is Seattle’s all-time leader in three-point percentage.
Each member of a family unit capable of forming a daunting starting lineup has enjoyed Brooke’s career year.
Bailey is averaging nine points on a career-high 39% shooting from beyond the arc, helping the Mustangs put together one of the best regular seasons in program history. Master’s is 22-1 overall and 10-1 in Golden State Athletic Conference play, good for a share of first place.
Bailey is 26th in the country in three-pointers made (50) and 35th in three-point percentage, stats based on skills she developed years earlier in Spokane, Washington.
As far back as she can remember, Bailey would shuttle to a local basketball gym with Kyle and Brett — six and three years older than their sister, respectively — and her parents to lay the foundation of her game.
In order to avoid bad habits, Kevin forbid his daughter to hoist long-distance shots until she developed the strength to do so properly. He also aimed to produce in Bailey a well-rounded game.
“We really worked on her ball-handling with both hands and proper shooting mechanics,” Kevin says. “Sometimes she worked out in a gym with six baskets, and she would have to use all six at the same time, moving around and creating different shots at each. It was a great drill for stamina, ball-handling and various shots.”
Bailey’s brothers would defend her in one-on-one drills, and while it was never mean-spirited, they didn’t allow her a free pass to the basket, either.
“They wouldn’t be afraid to block me or pick my pocket,” Bailey says. “But they were also good about giving me confidence and teaching me fundamentals, how to play defense, how to shoot.”
Shooting competitions were also a regular occurrence, some of which Bailey won, according to Kevin — though he can’t be certain her brothers didn’t let her win at times.
Kyle says that isn’t necessarily the case. In light of Bailey’s abilities, he says it’s not out of the question that she pulled the occasional upset.
“Of course, I don’t remember any of my losses,” Kyle says, “and I’m sure she’d say the same.”
As is always the case, the siblings’ fun couldn’t last forever. Kyle and Brett, both 6-foot-6, eventually departed for college in Southern California, and Bailey was left to adjust to a new normal.
“When they left, I remember sitting and bawling my eyes out,” she says. “I was all alone once Brett left, and it was difficult because I had three more years by myself without the people I grew up with. It was devastating.”
But not crippling.
Bailey earned all-league honors at Spokane’s University High. And as she watched her brothers play college basketball (either online or in-person when Brett’s San Diego team came north to play Gonzaga in Spokane), her desire to follow in their footsteps crystalized.
From her brothers, Bailey learned what it would take to compete at the college level. Over the years, their toughness and passion for the game seeped into her character.
She would need both traits at Master’s, a school she heard about from a hometown neighbor: TMU’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made, Zoe Price (Scott). Bailey has dealt with a nagging shoulder injury throughout her four college seasons. This year, she was forced to question whether even to play, knowing that if she did, she would only be delaying surgery until after the season.
“I talked to (Master’s coach Dan Waldeck), I sat in his office and I was completely honest, ‘This is what I’m going through. This is what I’m feeling,’” Bailey recalls. “He was so supportive and said he wants what’s best for me, wants me to be healthy and not to be in misery every single day.”
Ultimately, she decided to play, and every day since has been “a battle.”
“I didn’t want to live with the regret of not trying,” she says. “I told coach I’d try, but who knows if I’d make it through the year. I wanted to give everything for this team.”
That’s the spirit Kyle always admired in his sister. He loved her tenacity and the way she wore her passion for the game and her teammates on her sleeve. She was tough, but not cold-hearted, something Kyle, who regularly commutes from Costa Mesa, California, for TMU’s home games, still believes is true.
“She can beat a team by 30 and have no guilt,” he says, “and then afterward go talk to them about Jesus.”
Asked what he’s liked most about Bailey’s performance so far this season, Waldeck said, “Everything.”
“She defends any position, but probably just her willingness to do whatever is needed in the moment to help the team,” he says.
Waldeck believes Bailey’s family pedigree likely contributed to her high basketball IQ and competitiveness. But he says she has earned a skill set all her own.
The centerpiece of that repertoire, of course, is her prolific three-point shooting. Against the University of St. Katherine on Dec. 12, Bailey made a career-high seven 3-pointers. She’s connected on at least three treys in nine games this year, and she currently ranks fifth on TMU’s all-time list for 3-pointers made, 52 behind Price’s mark.
Bailey’s shooting routine begins with eye placement. When she catches a pass, her eyes dart to the front of the rim, where they will remain throughout the process, just as her parents taught her.
“I don’t look anywhere else,” she says.
Then, while she loads and prepares to jump, Bailey positions the ball on her pointer and middle fingers so it will leave those two digits upon release. Her follow-through is key.
“My mom always said to hold your follow-through just like you’re reaching your hand into the cookie jar,” Bailey says, “and hold it until the ball is at the bottom of the net.”
But, with Kevin still holding Seattle University’s record for three-point percentage, is Bailey truly the purest shooter in the family?
“Yes,” Kevin says. “She can really heat up. Her shot is the purest in the family.”
And that’s saying something.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.