Brooke Bailey and the rest of the Dixon girls basketball team finished practice on Monday with some full-court sprints.
That’s not always the easiest thing to do after a 2½ hour, sweat-filled session on the Lancaster Gym court, but for Bailey, it was a labor of love. That’s because basketball, the sport she holds dearest to her heart, was taken away this past summer.
Bailey is a senior guard for the Duchesses, and one of the top players in the area. As a junior, she stuffed the stat sheet with 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3.1 assists per game.
After the high school season, it’s on to her AAU team, the Midwest Elite. She tried out and made the squad in April, and was set for a full offseason of hoops.
On May 11, at a practice held at Joy of the Game in Deerfield, that all changed when she landed on the foot of one of her teammates, Ali Andrews of Huntley.
The result was two torn ligaments in her right ankle, the first significant injury the 5-foot-6 Bailey had suffered on a basketball court.
For 5 weeks, she was in a walking boot. No surgery was performed, but she wore the boot to let the ligaments heal naturally. She also iced the foot multiple times daily.
After 5 weeks, Bailey traded in the boot for a brace. While her teammates toiled away in open gyms, a league at Westwood and a pair of shootouts – a full June of basketball – Bailey could mostly just watch.
“In the boot, I tried to get up and shoot, but Rav [Dixon coach Luke Ravlin] would tell me to sit down,” Bailey said. “I really couldn’t do anything. When I wore the brace, I could shoot, but there was no jumping.”
Ravlin noted Bailey didn’t miss a Dixon practice or game in June, a critical month for bonding among high school basketball teams.
“What I told Brooke was to make the most of the opportunity she had,” Ravlin said. “The opportunity was to be a leader from the sideline, which was very different for her. I was really proud of the way she did that. Even though she was going through something that was negative for her, she was always very positive with her teammates. It was like having another coach on the bench.”
By the end of July, Bailey was mostly healed and getting the itch to play ball again. The Midwest Elite team had a tournament coming up, and she wanted to play. She didn’t, heeding the advice of her doctors, as well as her parents, Scott and Tiffany.
“It was a tense time,” Bailey said, “because I’ve never sat down and not done anything.”
Toward the end of August, however, Bailey received the go-ahead for full participation. She practiced with the Midwest Elite team and played in a tournament on Sept. 28 – missing Dixon’s homecoming festivities in the process.
That was a small price to pay for getting back on the court.
“It was easily one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through,” Bailey said. “Since I was 4 years old, I’ve never not played. It was hard, because I should be out there with my teams.”
By missing most of the AAU season, Bailey didn’t get to showcase her talents in front of the college recruiters who flock to summer events. There were some schools – which Bailey declined to name – that contacted her before the foot injury. They assured her they were still interested.
“They saw me in September, so they were pretty supportive of my situation,” Bailey said. “It’s a sucky situation, but it’s what I got dealt. They understood that, and they understand I’m back and 100 percent and working on my game.”
Truman State in Kirksville, Mo., made good on that assurance. Bailey made a verbal commitment Thursday and will sign her letter of intent next Wednesday.
Bailey’s numbers spoke for themselves a year ago as to the effectiveness of her all-around game. She still wants to do all of those things, as well as raise the games of her teammates.
“There’s always room for improvement in shooting and dribbling,” Bailey said, “and I want to come back and be quicker and faster than I was last year. I want to be a leader on the court, not that I don’t think I was the last couple of years, but even more now. I’m a senior now, and I want to show the underclassmen this is how they should be playing.”
2013-14 Dixon Duchesses
Coach: Luke Ravlin (3rd season, 24-35)
2012-13: 11-18 (4-6 NIB-12 West)
Advancement: Lost 45-36 to Rochelle in 3A regional semifinal
Key losses: Kacie Dillow, F; Taylor Colby, F; Emily Rains, F
Key returners: Brooke Bailey, sr., G; Carly Hartle, jr., F; Maggie Provo, sr., F
Opener: at Sherrard, 7:30 p.m. Monday
High school: Dixon
FYI: 4-year starting guard for Duchesses. ... Averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3.1 assists as a junior. ... Missed bulk of summer ball with ankle injury