One year ago, Bailey Rollins was about to undergo surgery. She had a torn ACL that she had surgically repaired after her sophomore season.
She made it back for her junior season this year, averaging 14.6 points per game as she helped Windsor claim a share of the Kaysinger Conference regular season title and a district championship.
“There were so many people who helped me out, getting me ready physically and mentally,” she said. “When games started, I had no trouble at all.”
Windsor coach Brad Forrest knows what Rollins was going through coming back from an injury. He injured his knee in high school and though he never realized it, he was told he was favoring one leg.
“You can kind of see where she had a couple opportunities to get to the basket and initiate the contact and try to get to the free throw line, and I don’t know if it was subconscious or not,” Forrest said. “She looked a little hesitant at times. I don’t think it hurt us any.”
Forrest said Rollins as a junior was a better shooter than she was her sophomore year, having focused on that part of her game.
“We need her to knock down those shots so she can open up that inside of the paint for us,” he said. “When we’ve got a complement like Shelby Williams in the paint, she’s got to knock down those shots for us.”
Williams, also on the Democrat All-Area first team, averaged a double-double with 12.9 points and 10 rebounds per game, up from 8.7 points per game last season. Both were asked to do more in 2013-14 after Windsor lost its leading scorer from 2012-13, Taylor Ebeling.
Rollins was still facilitating on offense, averaging 4.3 assists per game.
“Even though I felt I needed to score more, I still looked for our bigs and our guards because they’re all excellent players,” Rollins said.
Though the Greyhounds returned solid players like Williams and Breanna Bowers, their skill sets are not exactly the same as Ebeling’s, including Ebeling’s ability to shoot 3-pointers. Last season, Ebeling drew defenders out of the lane with her long-range shots, giving Rollins an easy trip to the basket. With Williams, more of a traditional low-post presence, those defenders often stayed home to try to counter her rebounding ability. Even passing to the two players was an adjustment Rollins had to make.
“You have to be more precise with the pass into the post than with a pass to the wing,” she said.
On defense, Rollins improved from 2.5 steals per game to 3.5 while also deflecting an average of four passes per game.
“Deflections are a large part of that, being able to get your hands on the ball and being in the right spot at the right time,” Forrest said. “Defensively, her getting those steals helped us on the offensive end. When you’re guarding the opponent’s best guard, you expect the steals to go down, but hers went up from being in the right spot at the right time, having quick hands, being able to pick off those deflections other defenders would get their hands on.”
“At the beginning of the year, I played pretty bad defense,” she said. “Lots of teams were able to just dribble by me or I lost my girl. Toward the end of the season, I made sure to step it up and I paid more attention to the people surrounding the play.”
Rollins was constantly a focus of opposing defenses. In the regular season, Cole Camp sent a 3-1 zone against the Greyhounds with Kimmi Finkiewicz in a man-to-man draped all over Rollins. The Bluebirds held Rollins to 10 points in that game, most of them coming either in transition or while Finkiewicz was on the bench.
“It took 17 games for someone to throw a junk defense at us, but Cole Camp finally did,” Forrest said. “After that, everybody starts seeing that and they try to copycat. Once we figured out what they were trying to do to us and to her specifically, we were able to make adjustments. It benefited us in the long run.”
Rollins calls that game the most frustrating she’s played.
“When we played Cole Camp for the first time, I wasn’t ready for it,” she said. “It got to me pretty easily. After the Cole Camp game, I watched the game film and I sat down to talk to my coach and my parents. It made me realize that even though I can’t score or have the ball as much, I have great guards, I have great low-post players who almost nobody else in the conference can stop, so just open up the play for everyone else. If they think I’m the only player on the team, they’re completely wrong.”
After that game, Forrest said, Rollins focused on the details to make the Windsor offense more effective.
“Once everybody started to key on her hard like they did toward the end of the year, we went into the gym and gave her some options that she could do to get herself open,” he said. “Our other guards did a good job of handling the ball, so we were able to get her off the ball and running screens.”
When she isn’t on the court, Rollins is near it. When Windsor played early games in the Kaysinger Conference tournament, Rollins stuck around to watch the later games. From time to time, she turned up at Smith-Cotton games to see Class 5 basketball. Between all of the high school games she saw this year and the summer league games she went to over the summer, Rollins estimates that she’s been to anywhere from 200 to 300 basketball games in the past year, including summer tournaments where she would sit through three or four games in a day, studying the way other teams played.
“I like to watch a lot of college basketball, men’s or women’s,” she said. “Just seeing how they see the floor, how the pass works. I like to watch as much high school basketball as I can because I’ll probably see the teams I watch. It helps me build a game plan for them. Plus I like to try to use other people’s moves in practice. If I see something that works, I’m going to try to use it.”
Rollins was tested by a tough schedule early in the year. The Greyhounds opened the season at the Marshall tournament, playing Marshall, Warrensburg and Smith-Cotton. On the heels of that tournament came the W-K Shootout and a matchup with Skyline, a team that took third in the state last season and reached the Class 2 state championship game this year.
“It was rough but it helped us in the end just to know if we got past districts or even in districts, we’d face teams just as good as the teams we faced in the Marshall tournament,” Rollins said. “Skyline, we knew would be back in the sectional game. It helped get our mindset back to where it needed to be. Obviously, it was difficult losing those games, but it helped us in the long run.”
She’ll be able to work this offseason where last summer she was still recuperating. She said her knee is 100 percent, but she would still like to improve her ability and level of play. She still wants to work on every aspect of her game, including ball handling and shooting and being able to thread a needle with her passes.
“I should be in better physical shape and my skills will be a little bit better,” she said.
“She’s not going to do anything but get better because of that mentality,” Forrest said.