Graduation day for Women's Basketball's lone senior Erneisha Bailey
AUSTIN, Texas -- When Texas senior Erneisha Bailey walked across the stage Friday to receive her diploma, she became another in a very long line of women's basketball student-athletes to graduate from UT.
The women's basketball program, long in the hands of retired mentor Jody Conradt and now directed by Gail Goestenkors who just completed her first year at the Forty Acres, has a stunning 99 percent graduation rate throughout its 34-year history.
And Bailey, a 5-9 starting guard known better as "E-Bay" by her coaches, teammates and fans, joined that great legacy of graduated players on May 16 in front of family and friends.
To complete a college degree these days in four years is an impressive achievement, and that's exactly what Bailey, a sport management major, did. She completed her coursework in the School of Education in four years, an achievement made even more impressive considering the amount of time E-Bay spent practicing, training, traveling and competing as a four-year Longhorns player.
"It was always a push for me to graduate in four years," noted Bailey after her commencement ceremony. "I just don't quit anything when I set a goal, and my family and I really thought I could graduate in four years. The plan worked with the help of a lot of people, particularly those in the academic services department, my parents and all my coaches here. Everyone supported me. All the staff supports everyone -- as soon as you step foot on this campus."
Bailey knew she would be getting her diploma in front of family members and friends, but was pleasantly surprised to see other familiar faces when she entered Gregory Gym for the School of Education ceremonies.
"As soon as I walked into the door I saw the whole academic staff waiting there to congratulate us," E-Bay said. "That was a really wonderful feeling knowing that they've been with me the whole process of four years and that they came out to support me and everyone else during our last moments here at UT. That meant so much to me, and I just want to publicly thank them all, especially (Senior Associate AD for Student Services) Randa Ryan."
On the court, Bailey emerged as UT's defensive stopper the last two years as she stepped into the starting lineup. The 5-9 guard earned Big 12 All-Defensive Team honors as a junior. Twice she was named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll. Over her last two seasons, Bailey played in all 67 possible games, gaining 63 starts. With her 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this winter, Bailey helped Goestenkors club go 22-13 this year and return to the NCAA Championships after a two-year absence.
Now, she turns her attentions to the future.
"Right now, I am working as a strength coach assistant at Train 4 The Game Performance Training Center in Austin," Bailey explained. "I did my internship there this spring when I balanced that and basketball, and I was really excited when they offered me a position after I finished the internship. I am working to get my (strength coach) certification, and right now I am training groups of athletes from every kind of sport you can imagine!"
"That's my short-term goal," Bailey noted, "as I've signed with an agent and want to pursue my dream of playing pro basketball overseas. I don't know where I'm headed yet. There's been some talk of going to Israel to play in the fall, but it's up in the air right now as to where I'll be. I plan to keep this basketball dream alive and keep working out and getting better at the game."
Before she left campus for time with family and friends, Bailey had some final thoughts.
"I am so happy that my grandparents came in from Florida to see graduation and that my granny is here from Louisiana along with cousins and aunts and my parents," Bailey continued. "We are together, celebrating this day and celebrating my wonderful experience at UT. I love Texas, and I love where our basketball program is headed. I wouldn't change a thing or any experience -- negative or positive -- that I've had over the last four years! This will always be my home."