SYCAMORE – A year ago, Sycamore’s sophomore Bailey Gilbert was able to sit back and learn.
Getting the rare opportunity to play on the varsity level as a freshman, Gilbert had the chance to watch and compete with Lake Kwaza, a Daily Chronicle first team all-area point guard, and follow the rest of the Spartans’ seniors. Gilbert had the chance to guard the quick, intense Kwaza in practice, getting to know what she needed to do to get better on defense.
This year, on a team that features just one senior and starts two freshmen, Gilbert is the team’s leading scorer, the Spartans’ go-to player, and someone who is expected to be one of the team’s leaders.
Second-year Sycamore coach Brett Goff said he doesn’t even think of Gilbert as a sophomore, and talked about how much Gilbert’s overall play has improved. She can score, leads the team in free-throw attempts and is often going against the opposing team’s best player.
“Last year, as coaches we were just content with her being out there, being an outside threat, being our main 3-point shooter,” Goff said. “But this year, we really challenged her in the offseason, of making her overall game much better. She’s really doing a lot this year for us.”
Gilbert is someone who admits she’s more of a quiet, shy person. Both Goff and Gilbert say the sophomore is someone who leads by example. Goff mentioned how Gilbert is always going 100 percent in practice, and how the other girls on the team look up to her.
In a way, Sycamore goes as Gilbert goes.
“I just know that if I feel down, everybody else is feeling that way,” Gilbert said. “So, I just need to pick myself up, and pick everybody else up.”
Goff talked to Gilbert about taking on a new role before the season, and the sophomore ended up earning a spot as a team captain. Goff said that while Gilbert is more of the quiet type, the other players do notice when she decides to speak up.
“When she says something, the girls do listen because she doesn’t just talk to talk,” Goff said.
Heading into her prep career, Gilbert said one of the challenges was just getting past the self-doubt any freshman would face on varsity, and just playing the game. She was a Daily Chronicle honorable mention all-area selection last season, and has improved this year. One thing Goff talked about was her defense. Gilbert leads the team in steals and stays out of foul trouble.
With two years of eligibility left, Goff said Gilbert has the chance to end her high school career with a number of accomplishments.
“It’s up to her. We’re going to be here for her to help guide the way as much as she wants to during the season, during the offseason,” Goff said. “She can be as good as she wants to be, if she can continue to work on the ball-handling, on the defensive end, get in the weight room, get stronger, get quicker.”