Off Court with Erneisha Bailey
For Texas women's basketball, the recruiting process for a talented high-school star such as Erneisha Bailey begins with close scouting and observation during a players' high school and AAU summer basketball, and culminates after unofficial and official campus visits and many convincing conversations from head coach Jody Conradt and UT players on what makes Texas the program to play in.
For 5-9 rookie guard Erneisha Bailey, the recruitment standards were no different. Yet, Bailey's first taste of Texas basketball was not from a phone call or a coaches' scouting report or a recruiting trip initiated by Conradt. Bailey's first taste of Texas Basketball was purely coincidental.
"Believe it or not, (sophomore guard) Tamra Cobbins and I met while painting a garage together," said Bailey, noting her first connection with a player on the Longhorns team. "When I was in high school, Tamra was the best player I had played against in the Missouri/Kansas area. It's funny looking back on it now. Tamra and I have a mutual friend named Leslie and she invited me over to help paint the garage while Tamra was there. We had a lot fun and we definitely got a lot closer that day, and that really sparked more interest in UT."
As the Texas women's basketball guide lists, junior guard Tamra Cobbins from Kansas City, Kan., used to do yard work to earn money for basketball camps. It just so happens that on one summer day in 2002, Cobbins found herself in Bailey's neighborhood.
"I think it was Erneisha's best friend's mother's garage that we painted," laughed Cobbins. "We had a good time. Later on, when I found out that she was having great junior and senior years and that Texas was recruiting her, I became really involved in helping recruit her because I liked her a lot. When 'E' finally came on her official visit, I hosted her."
Erneisha, better known around the UT basketball program as "E" or "E-Bay", was highly recruited out of Missouri. Entering her senior year campaign, Bailey had already earned First-Team All-District and All-Conference honors twice and was voted to the Associated Press Missouri All-State First Team while starring at Pembroke Hill, a private school.
Bailey continued on the torrid pace of scoring, rebounding and assisting as a senior, averaging 21 points, nine rebounds and four steals her senior campaign, earning 2004 Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year honors in the process. She also claimed WBCA/Nike first team honors, playing in the elite WBCA H.S. All-America Game last April during the NCAA Women's Final Four festivities in New Orleans - one of the highlights of her young career, as she often notes.
Now, as Bailey is settling into her third month of basketball practice at UT, Conradt states that she is liking what she is seeing from the young guard.
"Erneisha is a talented player with tremendous athleticism," Conradt notes. "I anticipate she will be in the rotation at some point this season and will develop as one of those players we will be talking about. In order to successfully run our new offense and be as tough defensively as we need to be, Erneisha needs to play a big part in all we are doing."
Bailey credits Pembroke - an acclaimed academic and athletic school - for preparing her for the rigors of budgeting time for both school and basketball. Meanwhile, making adjustments to her new Austin environment is something she is familiar with, coming from her background.
"I am looking forward to making Austin my home. I don't know if anyone knows that I really AM a native Texan - born in Temple, Texas," Bailey said. "My parents are in the military so I moved around a lot. I was born in Temple, moved to Atlanta, then to South Carolina. We moved to Kansas City when I was seven.
"Austin is really great. Who would have thought that I'd end up, back in the state where I was born - and that painting a house would have a lot to do with it?," Bailey concluded. "I came here with high expectations and I have to realize that things take time to develop. I'm just trying to stay as positive as I can and keep my mind focused on basketball. I can't wait to contribute to this team."