As Kamau Bailey took the helm of the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team this winter, he faced a big challenge.
With a roster comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores and no returning varsity players, PDS was undoubtedly going to experience some growing pains.
While the Panthers posted a 3-11 record, Bailey views the season as a success.
“I think even though the win-loss record doesn’t show it, we had a huge season,” asserted Bailey.
“We accomplished what we were looking to achieve at the beginning of the season. The team got better as the season went on and the girls individually got better.”
After starting the season with five straight losses, PDS won three of its last nine games, posting victories over Villa Victoria, King’s Christian, and Foundation Charter.
“They were huge confidence builders,” said Bailey, referring to the three triumphs. “A lot of people counted us out and thought we weren’t going to win any games.”
The team even gained confidence in some of its defeats. “We lost to Stuart by 27 (48-21) in the opener and then it was a four point game (33-29) the next time we played; that was a marker that the girls were starting to understand the game,” said Bailey.
“The teams we played twice, stomped us in the first game and then it was much closer in the second game. The Pennington coach took me aside after our second game and told me how much better the team had gotten. They battled some really good varsity teams.”
The progress made by freshman Morgan Mills exemplified the team’s collective improvement.
“Morgan had never played basketball, she came from England and had played net ball there,” said Bailey. “She ended up as a starter by the end of the season.”
Freshman point guard Shayla Stevenson ended up gaining some valuable lessons this winter.
“Shayla made a lot of progress; she had a tough role,” said Bailey. “She was our best ball-handler and our most talented player offensively. The other teams would see this and key on her. She would get trapped and pressed in the backcourt. She was using up her energy to get up the court and that affected her scoring. She had a couple of huge games, she had a 20-point, 11-assist game in one of our victories.”
Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord enjoyed some huge games, emerging as a force for the Panthers.
“Isabel didn’t start off the season with us because she had an an ankle injury,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord.
“She started playing two games into the season. She is very agile for her size and she can go up and down the court. Some coaches would put her in the post but I want her to bring the ball up the court and shoot from the outside. I want her to be our Kevin Durant. She had a 33-point game and a 20-point game.”
Bailey sees a big upside for gritty sophomore guard/forward Alexis Davis.
“Alexis is going to be one of our better players; she has a natural ability to track the ball,” said Bailey.
“Every night she came and rebounded. I would put her on other team’s best offensive player because she was scrappy and aggressive. She is a good soccer player and that helps her with basketball. She also has the ability to dribble the ball.”
For Bailey, stepping up to the varsity level turned out to be a very good
“It is a great group of girls; I am excited about the future,” asserted Bailey. “I was a little nervous at first, it is much different going from middle school to high school varsity. Once I had the girls in front of me, it was great. They took off and set a nice groundwork and foundation for the future.”
In addition, the players had a nice time in the process as Bailey strove to create a positive culture around the program.
“The other goal was for them to have fun,” said Bailey. “The parents were telling me that with a such a challenging season, the girls came home happy and excited every night. I think the confidence that I wanted to bring is taking hold.”