Women’s Basketball | Baily waits her turn, then leaves her mark

Julia Baily is used to winning. Having been the go−to scorer on her high school and AAU basketball teams, she regularly carried her squad to victory. She became the only 1,000−point scorer in the history of Miss Porter’s High School, and her AAU squad made nationals and finished in the top 10 in the nation in all four years of her participation.

So the fact that Baily, a senior, put together one of the greatest careers in Tufts history — scoring over 1,000 points and finishing in the top 10 of the program’s all−time scoring list — isn’t too surprising. The fact that she did it while barely playing at all freshman year is.

But according to senior Casey Sullivan, a former Jumbo basketball player who faced Baily in high school and has lived with her all four years at Tufts, that’s just the type of person and player Baily is.

“Julia is definitely driven to win,” Sullivan said. “That’s one of the things that I think motivates her in playing well. She’s definitely a big−time gamer. She loves the sport of basketball and has great knowledge of the game. She’s one of the best basketball players I’ve ever played with.”

Despite her pedigree, Baily was forced to ride the pine for much of her first year at Tufts — something that took a bit of getting used to.

“I came into a really senior−dominated team,” Baily said. “Four of the five starters were seniors, and I was behind Khalilah [Ummah (LA ’08)] and eventually [Katie Tausanovitch (LA ’09)]. I was a practice role−player … It was a role I’d never been a part of or had in my life. So it was definitely something different. It took a little bit to overcome, but it helped in the long run.”

Still, Baily’s teammates and coaches could see her potential right from the get−go.

“She was one of those players that everybody knew was a true basketball player,” Sullivan said. “The seniors just said you’ve got to bide your time, learn the program and coach [Carla] Berube’s style of play.”

Baily’s role on the team grew significantly in her sophomore year, when she was essentially the team’s sixth man. Then, during her junior year, she proved herself as a starter, leading the team in both points and rebounds with averages of 12.9 and 8.1, respectively, and earning All−NESCAC Second Team honors.

The women’s basketball team set a program record with 26 wins in Baily’s sophomore year, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The next season, the team went 22−5 and made it to the second round of NCAAs. But a lot of the Jumbos’ team success — and Baily’s individual achievements — was a result of the play of Tufts’ true post players: the 6−foot−1 Ummah, the 2008 NESCAC Player of the Year, and the 6−foot−3 Tausanovitch, who had transferred from Div. I William and Mary.

“Khalilah and Katie were tall, really post−minded players, whereas I was more of a running, more athletic post player,” said Baily, who is 5−foot−11. “So I came in games [my sophomore year] expected to be that spark off the bench and hopefully get my defender tired.”

Ummah graduated at the end of that season, opening up a starting spot in the frontcourt, but the presence of Tausanovitch still took a lot of the pressure off of Baily in the post.

“[My success junior year] was largely because of that confidence,” Baily continued. “I rely a lot on that. I knew I had the skill, but it was just going into games believing I could do those things. It also helped that Katie and I were very different players, so it was hard to defend us. We had a great high−low thing going, and I think [my junior year] numbers are a lot because of her. She did a lot of the dirty work and let me excel.”

Going into her senior year, Baily lost the safety net of veteran post players who she had played with throughout her college career. But with the entire team in transition, Berube changed the squad’s style of play to be more up−tempo — something that fit Baily perfectly.

“We were kind of unsure who we’d be as a team — our identity, our style,” Baily said. “And I think not only did I have that hesitant feeling about the season, but the team did as well. We just refocused and drastically changed our offense. And I think it worked well.”

It certainly did for Baily, as she put together the best season of her career, averaging 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds — good enough for No. 2 in the conference in both respective categories. Her 424 points rank as the fourth−most by any Jumbo in a single season, and her superb play earned her a place on the All−NESCAC First Team.

“Julia put a lot on her back, a lot of the games, just controlling the boards and controlling the lane,” Berube said. “We put a lot on her to play a lot of minutes and stay out of foul trouble, which she never really had to do. She was always the ‘other post player’ her first three years. She really stepped up and had a great season.”

While Baily always had the potential to excel at the college level, those close to her are still extremely proud of how she was able to grow and put all of her talents together.

“I think that she’s always had the ability to take over games, but the difference between her first two years and her last two was knowing what works for her,” Sullivan said. “She figured out what shots to take and what not to take, and how to get position on rebounds, because that’s just where she’s absolutely dominant. It wasn’t about gaining all those skills, but rather learning to use the skills she already had.”

“From where Julia Baily was as a little freshman to what she became as a senior is phenomenal,” Berube said. “It’s been kind of crazy. She’d been in the shadows and was okay with being in the shadows, to be that post player that nobody was keying on, and she’d just come in and get the dirty work done … She’s taken on every role and every year gotten better and more confident and sort of more invested in it all, and you can see that on the court.”

In the middle of her exceptional final year, Baily realized that she had an outside chance at scoring 1,000 career points — a feat only nine other players had accomplished in Tufts history. But even then, she didn’t dwell on it until the team was preparing to face the nationally ranked No. 2 Kean Cougars in the NCAA Tournament — when she was informed that she was only 14 points away from the milestone.

“Halfway through the season, a teammate had mentioned that I was in distance,” Baily said. “I had thought about it but then forgot about it and figured it wasn’t going to happen. The next time I thought about it was when my dad said to me after the [first round of the NCAA Tournament] that I needed to get [15] points. And I was so mad at him because I didn’t want to have that in my head going into that game when I just wanted to win.”

But Baily remained relaxed heading into the game, even knowing that the Jumbos’ chances against Kean — which at the time was in the middle of a 27−game winning streak — weren’t fantastic.

“Going into that game, I was really calm about it, and I just knew if I played the basketball that I knew how to play, and the team operated the same way it had all season, then it was going to happen,” she said.

The Jumbos played Kean tight in the first half and headed into halftime down just one to the Cougars. Meanwhile, Baily had 10 points and was comfortably on pace to break 1,000 points without much drama.

But things turned in the second half, and Baily started to feel the pressure.

“We started missing a lot of shots, me and as a team,” Baily said. “It was definitely a little more stressful when I was at 12 points and couldn’t seem to put the ball in the net.”

She did manage to cross that monumental barrier eventually, finishing the game with 17 points. Sadly, the team did not fare as well, as Kean defeated the Jumbos 75−56 and ended their season.

“It was bittersweet that she got her 1,000th point, because it was at the end of her career, but I’m glad she was able to do that,” Berube said. “I know that she’s worked very hard, and I’m proud of what she’s accomplished here.”

“It was pretty anticlimactic because it was my last game,” Baily added. “I think it’s going to be a lot nicer to look back on rather than really appreciate now.”

Baily ended her Tufts career having been to the NESCAC Tournament all four years and to the NCAA Tournament for the past three. And while the Jumbos didn’t win any titles during Baily’s time with the team, she’s still happy with the results of her college career.

“My freshman year, when we had been winning, everyone was surprised and excited, but I didn’t have an idea why,” Baily said. “I guess to me it had been a standard … It’s been a goal [to win] every single year, and we accomplished it every single year. I think it was a successful four years. We didn’t come away with any championships, but to know the program is headed in really good direction, I’m happy with that.”

Despite all the individual and team success that she enjoyed with the Jumbos, Baily said the thing she will miss the most down the road is the camaraderie she shared with her teammates, particularly in her final year.

“I’m going to remember this season,” Baily said. “The friendships I’ve made, the overall atmosphere around this team, I’ll have very fond memories of it. Just to end with that, it was a lot of fun. And although we didn’t get as far as we wanted, I think the relationships and the friendships are what I’ll remember.”

With Baily’s graduation on the horizon, the Jumbos will again have to transition and find a new way to be effective with their post play. Considering her contribution to the team over the past few years, it’s safe to say that no matter who ends up playing down low, Baily will be missed.

“She’s been such a huge part of our program, from on the court to the goofball that she is off the court,” Berube said. “It’s going to be different without her here. She’s definitely left a legacy here.” Sapna Bansil contributed reporting to this article.