ALMA -- Codey Mann couldn't help but notice as Sierra Bailey gave a younger Alma teammate instructions on how a certain drill was done during a recent Airedalettes practice session.
The senior guard has come a long way from being the person Mann first met when he became Alma's girls coach two years ago.
6A/5A District 1 Girls High 5
All-state player who averaged 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds per game last season
Averaged 13.5 points per game and earned all-state honors last season
Early John Brown signee averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds last season.
Versatile athlete who earned all-state honors in both basketball and soccer last season.
All-state player who averaged 11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds per game last season.
"I'm pretty loud and assertive and not shy any more in those areas," Bailey said. "Maybe in some areas like school, but not on the court. That's where I really come out of my shell."
Bailey still considers herself a shy and withdrawn person -- the result of being trapped in "bad situations" during her early childhood years with her biological mother, who was 16 when Bailey was born. Those situations eventually her to develop trust issues with other people as she bounced around to place to place in the Fort Smith-Greenwood area.
Her situation, however, greatly improved when she was 5 years old as she and her brother Derek -- who was 18 months at the time -- were adopted by their parents and moved to Alma. It also became the time Bailey's interest in basketball developed.
"I would say it took about a year to break out my shell," Bailey said. "That came with not knowing if I was going to be safe there, but it didn't take too long because I knew they were a great family and made me feel welcome. They didn't make me feel like I was adopted.
"My first Christmas, I got a basketball goal. I would just be out there playing, and it was a great stress reliever -- something I enjoyed to do. I never thought too serious about it. I just enjoyed doing it."
Mann's turn to break Bailey out of another shell came shortly after he was named Alma's new basketball coach in the spring of 2015. He marveled at Bailey's athletic ability and thought she was capable of playing and contributing immediately, but her timidness stepped in the way.
She admitted it was a lack of confidence because she didn't think she was good enough to play varsity basketball. She also didn't want to step on the older players' toes, no matter how much Mann persuaded her to give things a chance.
"One of the first things I noticed about Sierra was I thought she could be a really good player," Mann said. "We tried really hard to get her on the court, and I thought she could have started for us. She just didn't want to play over some of those older players.
"One of our biggest games that year was when we beat Siloam Springs here. Sierra had about 8 or 10 points, and right there you could see what she could do from a basketball standpoint. But she was still really reserved and in her shell."
Everything started to change during the offseason as Bailey prepared for her junior year. Mann began working with his returning players on skill development and one-on-one drills when Bailey asked him to stay and do some extra work with her on her skills.
The bond between player and coach began to strengthen to the point Bailey and Mann were staying after practice three to four times per week and working on her game. It led to Bailey's successful season last year, where she played everywhere on the court and averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while earning all-conference and all-state honors.
"I realized I didn't want to sit on the bench another two years," Bailey said. "I wanted to be part of winning and being a great team. I wanted him to work with me so I could work on my shooting and be confident enough to play on the varsity team.
"I improved my game a lot. I knew the only way I could improve was repetitions -- doing the same drills and shooting a lot. I probably improved the most at being physical and being assertive on offense."
Mann wasn't the only one impressed with Bailey's improvement. Her play convinced John Brown enough to give her an offer, and she signed her letter of intent in September -- two months before her senior season would start.
Bailey's parents, however, saw that power of persuasion well in advance. Bailey was 13 when she begged her parents to add another member to her family, and that's when her youngest brother, Jackson, was adopted.
"It was at that time when I realized the magnitude of how blessed I was in being part of a great family," Bailey said. "There are a bunch of kids in this area that don't have a great home. So I begged my parents to please open our home again.
"I met Jackson, and he lived in a shelter in Northwest Arkansas with a bunch of other kids. We adopted him, and on his fourth birthday, he officially became a member of our family last year."
Sports on 11/05/2017
Print Headline: 6A/5A District 1 Girls Bailey ready to break out for Alma again