Erneisha Bailey: Defense, discipline and determination
The transition from high school to college is a difficult task. Add to that the pressures last year for sophomore guard Erneisha Bailey of playing basketball for top-10 ranked Texas, and being the only freshman on that team.
So, you can understand that Bailey’s transformation from a young “offensive-driven” freshman to a now-confident sophomore defender is unlike any other UT player’s progress.
Any freshman will tell you she or he has high hopes of seeing a good amount of playing time when they arrive on the Forty Acres; it’s all part of their dream. When you come into a team stacked with six experienced seniors, as Bailey did last year, you quickly realize that getting busy on the defensive end of the floor will earn you playing time.
“I definitely expected to play a lot more last year, and it was kind of tough, to be honest,” Bailey noted. “I also had to get used to being the only freshman and experiencing everything new by myself – even though Daria (Mieloszynska) came in new also, she had two years of college behind her.”
Channeling her time and energy to become one of the team’s top defenders was no easy task. Bailey, who is nicknamed “E-Bay”, admits she struggled.
“When I played high school ball in Missouri, I was bigger and quicker than everyone else, so defense was easy to me,” she said. “But coming here and actually learning how to play defense was definitely hard. Trial and error, I would call it.”
“Looking back, however, it did put me in a good position, though; you become a leader out of it,” Bailey says.
With seven new freshman faces dotting the roster this year, Bailey’s role on the 2005-06 team has changed dramatically. Within 12 months, Bailey had to mature into a big sister role and become a “go-to” person for her younger teammates.
“I feel that now I am ready and prepared to help the freshmen,” Bailey explained. “I have been there, and I know what to do to make it. It’s almost as if I am a junior or senior when it comes to the freshmen, because I have matured so much from a year ago.”
Freshman guard Erika Arriaran expresses utmost respect in the way Bailey is helping to lead the rookies.
“She always tries to support us, while at the same time motivate us,” said Arriaran. “When we get in trouble or make repeated mistakes and have to run on the sideline or do sprints, Erneisha runs with us. Erneisha always advises us to pick it up on “D” because that is her expertise. She is absolutely the best defender on the team.”
According to UT assistant coach Travis Mays, Bailey, who describes herself as “energetic, loud and motivated” on and off the court, has come a long way.
“To see E-Bay from last year to this year is like seeing two different players- there is a world of difference,” Mays said.
“Before, we had a hard time keeping her down in the defensive position, and now looking at her, I think she will be one of the strongest defenders.”
Working constantly on her defensive form and physical toughness has been a major priority for Bailey.
“That is what I tried to focus on last year and it took me a while to get it. This year, I definitely know it is my role,” she says.
Bailey agrees that she went through lots of growing pains as a freshman. This fall, when each Longhorn was asked to write down for her media guide personality profile what advice she would pass along to young athletes, Bailey quickly penned, “To keep working hard every day – and don’t stop when you come to college.”
“Her entire game has changed in terms of confidence,” Mays said. “When she came in as a freshman, her head was spinning the whole time. Erneisha was second-guessing herself and her passes, and now she is doing everything more instinctively. Her confidence level has grown by leaps and bounds.”
Now, Bailey’s teammates like to think of her as one of the strongest players in the weight room and toughest defenders. As an education major, Bailey continues to make strides in the classroom as well, having been named to the Big 12 Conference Commissioners’ Honor Roll last fall and spring semesters.
Bailey also seems to have her professional priorities in high order, noting that when she graduates, she hopes to become an “important businesswoman for a Fortune 500 company, such as Nike”.
Senior guard Nina Norman is one of the many who have witnessed Bailey’s transformation.
“E-Bay has grown a lot in many ways. Shas improved a lot on her ball handling skills. I noticed her coming in this summer and really working hard.,” stated Norman.
“We used to call her ‘Bulldozer Bailey’ because she used to come in the lane and try to bulldoze her way to the basket! But, she has calmed that down a lot and has really improved her game in all areas. I know she had a hard freshman year and she struggled, but she has done a tremendous job from then to now,” Norman said.
Having gained her teammates’ respect continually reminds Bailey to stay focused on how she can help the newcomers and how she can continue to stay motivated on and off the court.
“I am trying to get more heart and not give up so easily. I am trying to do the little things and make sure everyone is okay and keep everyone pumped up,” says Bailey.
“I am making smarter decisions - going to bed earlier at night because I know I have practice, to trying to be responsible with my grades. Not making mistakes in practice or in life in general. I try my hardest to stay positive.”
Playing basketball for Texas takes heart, discipline and dedication. Heart to want it, discipline to drive yourself in the right direction, and dedication to win and achieve it.
And Bailey is discovering those three attributes within herself as she transforms into one of the team’s most reliable defenders.