Bailey knew how to run a team: Point guard led Danville Hawks to state tournament

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Apr. 18—When it comes to keeping her middle school students in line, Lori Breedlove Bailey may be falling back on her talents she used as a point guard on her basketball teams in high school and college.

"She had an outstanding ability to keep us all together, including me," former Wallace State coach Larry Slater said. "She knew how to run a team."

Bailey was a four-year All-State player at Danville. After two years at Wallace State in Hanceville, she played for two more seasons at Jacksonville State.

She will be inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame on May 1.

Former Danville girls basketball coach Karen Melson said she knew Bailey was something special the first time she saw her play.

"It was in the seventh grade, and you could tell she had so much natural ability," Melson said. "She was so quick and had so much speed.

"Lori was one of those once-in-a-lifetime players that every coach wants to experience."

Bailey developed her basketball skills playing with her brothers Lance and Brent.

"Lance was the most complete player in the family," Bailey said. "He could play defense and jump. Brent was a really good shooter."

She was on the varsity as an eighth grader. Her assignment at practice each day was to guard senior Rhnea Ellenburg, Danville's first girls All-State player.

"She set the example I tried to follow," Bailey said.

The next year it was Bailey's team. Over the next four seasons the Hawks would go 117-29 with two state tournament appearances.

"We weren't a big team, but we were quick," Melson said. "Our quickness was the difference. We used our defense to create our offense and it really worked well."

In Bailey's senior season, Danville, which was ranked No. 1 all season, went 28-3. The losses were to 6A Berry (now Hoover), 5A Hartselle and 3A state champion Red Bay that beat Danville in the state tournament quarterfinals.

Bailey averaged 13.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.6 steals that season. For her career, Bailey finished with 1,644 points, 671 assists, 460 rebounds and 517 steals.

"When you recruit a player to junior college they need to be ready to play right away," Slater said. "You don't have time to develop a player. Lori was ready to play the first day she stepped on campus.

"She wasn't a big scorer, but Lori could run an offense really well. She could find the open person and get the ball to them. She also played softball at Wallace. Sometimes I had to remind her not to throw a 90 mph pass when she was 10 feet away."

Slater took advantage of her quickness to use Bailey in the middle in a diamond press defense.

"Because Lori played softball, she could read the ball really well. I remember one game at Motlow where we are pressing. She goes after a pass near the sideline. There was a girl from Motlow standing there. I guess Lori didn't see her because she knocked her a few rows up in the stands."

One of Bailey's teammates at Wallace was fellow Hall of Fame inductee Andrea Watkins-Orr.

"Lori was one of the best point guards I ever played with," Watkins-Orr said. "She was awesome and really good about getting the ball to whoever was open."

After two years at Wallace, Bailey moved on to Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks were making the difficult transition from NCAA Division II to Division I in the Trans America Athletic Conference.

"The first year we got slaughtered," Bailey said. "Our second year we made it to the conference finals."

Bailey was named team captain for her senior season.

"Growing up playing basketball in Morgan County was really a thrill," Bailey said. "There were so many great players and coaches. I have a lot of great memories from those days."

david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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