So don’t fall off your chair when you read my next sentence. I loved how Gannon’s season ended.
Forget the losses. And the turnovers and the missed shots, and being on the wrong end of a buzzer beater. Make that two buzzer beaters. Gannon’s play of the year came on the season’s final possession when with just 15 seconds on the clock, fourth-year senior walk-on Cory Bailey drilled a three from the left wing off one dribble, the almost identical spot where Girbran Smith won last year’s PSAC tournament championship.
Regular readers of this column know I hold all walk-ons in high regard (takes one to know one), but Bailey is a cut above the rest. First, he’s a local kid, the pride of North East, PA. Second, he’s known as a great teammate. He’s a scary hard worker and it’s obvious he sets the pace on the bench for the team’s enthusiasm. He was high energy last year when things were going great, and he didn’t change his attitude this year even as the losses piled up. Finally, Bailey did all that for four grueling years despite receiving an anemic amount of playing time over that stretch. The past two seasons he’s played only 15 minutes, and half of those came Wednesday vs. the Hurst. In 23 career games, he totaled 43 minutes on the floor, which is about as much time as former Knight Adam Blazek would log in one afternoon. Bailey had just 4 points – one field goal and two free throws – prior to his bucket against the Lakers.
People think pressure is what LeBron James feels when he has the ball with the clock winding down and the Cavs trailing by a point. But if he misses, there’s the next game or, even if it’s game 7 of the NBA Finals, there’s the next season. But true pressure is what Bailey was under. The kid had the ball on the final offensive possession of his competitive basketball life – he’ll never play in front of paying customers again – with one last opportunity to make a field goal. And he drained it. Sorry, LeBron, but that’s clutch.
I predict this won’t be the last we hear about Cory Bailey. No, he won’t have his number retired, and he won’t get inducted into Gannon’s Athletic Hall Of Fame for what he did between the lines. But based on what we saw him consistently display since 2012, the physical therapy major is going to be a success because I bet he’ll approach life the same way he tackled basketball.
I expect this will be the last Gannon Hoops post I write for a while – maybe even until next season tips off in November – and it ties in with what I just wrote about Bailey. I’ve begun writing a book with the working title “The Walk-On Method to Career and Business Success” that will feature leadership lessons from underdogs who became extraordinary. I’ve conducted nearly a dozen interviews so far, and I plan to devote some time the rest of this year to that project.
Among the folks I’ve talked with are a rower at Dartmouth who’s now a world-class triathlete and business consultant, a quarterback at the University of Washington who never saw one second of playing time but is now a successful attorney, a track walk-on at Western Michigan who was recently named a college athletic director, and an LSU basketball walk-on who started a chain of successful southern restaurants (called Walk-On’s, of course).
Because my minimum requirement to be featured in the book is five years of professional experience, Cory Bailey won’t be included. But if I write a volume two, I have a feeling he will earn himself a chapter.