PIONEER — North Central senior point guard Jack Bailey has been through ups and downs in his Eagles career. This season has seen peaks and valleys too, but Bailey believes with his experience, plus the experience of the team’s five other seniors, North Central can pick itself back up out of its current rut and make a deep playoff run.
After starting the season 5-0, including 4-0 in the Buckeye Border Conference, culminating in a game-winning 3-pointer from Bailey to beat Stryker, North Central looked to be one of the favorites to win the league. Since then, the Eagles have dropped seven of their last eight games, including conference losses to Pettisville, Fayette and Edon, all three of which have jumped the Eagles in the standings.
Bailey said having a group of seniors so connected is the only way out of this slump for the Eagles.
“Lately, we haven’t been doing well,” Bailey said. “But at the beginning of the year, everyone was on the same page. We knew what our goal was. Everyone was focused on that same goal. We came into practice every day ready with good energy. We need to bring up that energy, know what the game plan is, focus on the goals again.”
North Central is a very experienced team, as the Eagles have six seniors on the varsity roster, second-most in the BBC, behind Edon’s seven. Having been through rough patches before, Bailey said he thinks the team can find a way out of the one it’s in right now.
“Having those seniors, we have good leadership,” Bailey said. “We’ve played together since junior high. We know how to play together. We’ve had bad times in the past, but we’ll get it back.”
North Central coach Chris Fidler took it a step further.
“It says a lot for us with them,” Fidler said. “It really helps our chemistry. Those boys have played together for lots of years now. They’re not just basketball teammates; they’re the true meaning of a family. They hang out outside of the game. ... They’re always talking about going four-wheeling, snowmobiling, all that stuff. That’s what good teams are made of.”
Fidler also said Bailey has stepped into a more vocal leader’s role now that he’s a senior. Bailey said it’s important to him not just to be a leader for the rest of this season, but to leave the North Central basketball program in good hands even after he leaves.
“All good teams have a floor general,” Fidler said. “Jack has developed into that. He’s someone who, when it’s crunch time, he’s going and getting the ball. When we need a big stop, he’s the one who’s stepping in to lock somebody down. He’s developed into a great leader. We tell him he needs to be more outspoken because he’s a quiet kid.”
Bailey sees that crunch-time attitude as an extension of the trust he and his teammates have. He says that game-winner against Stryker was his best high school basketball memory, but acknowledges the work it took to get to that opportunity.
“I know my teammates trust me,” he said. “They do see me as a leader. It’s great to have teammates where I know that even if I would miss or make the wrong play, I know they’ve got my back and they’d pick me up if I didn’t make the right play.”
Bailey also plays golf and baseball, and he said being involved in different sports allows him to keep the competitive juices flowing during the basketball offseason.
“We’re a small school, so we have to have multiple kids play multiple sports,” he said. “I try to be good at all those sports. I don’t want to just go out there and go through the motions. It’s important to let everyone know if you’re going to do something, try to do your best at it.”
As far as personal goals go, Bailey wants to hit 1,000 points for his career. He currently sits at 854 points with nine games left in the regular season, so he’ll need to average around 16.2 points per game over that stretch. For the team, he wants the Eagles to bounce back and make a run at a BBC title and a playoff run. And then once he and his fellow seniors are done at North Central, he knows how he wants them to be remembered.
“I want them to remember that me and my team set a winning standard, had a good attitude on and off the court,” he said. “We were good leaders. We can set that standard for the little kids and junior high kids to come up and follow us.”