At some point — she doesn’t quite know when — Bailey Rollins tore her ACL.
“It was very surprising,” she said. “I had no idea. It was kind of scary at the same time, thinking maybe I’m not going to be able to come back and play at the same level, but the doctors say it’s going to be fine. They just talked me through it and I’m fine with it right now.”
Windsor’s sophomore point guard said there hasn’t been pain, just a little soreness when she stepped wrong during the Kaysinger Conference Tournament final.
“She’s a pretty tough kid,” said Windsor coach Brad Forrest. “You could see it even in the game we lost to Sacred Heart in the conference championship game. She gutted it out after that. You could kind of tell the rest of the year that she wasn’t the same. I think she will come back better.”
Even playing on one good leg, Rollins averaged 14 points and 6.3 assists per game and is the Sedalia Democrat all-area player of the year. She credits a lot of that to her teammates.
“If I didn’t have anyone to pass to, I would not be the player I was today,” she said. “They helped me in the success that I’ve had.”
One of those players is the Greyhounds’ 1,000-point scorer Taylor Ebeling. Rollins credits the senior forward with teaching everyone to have fun.
“She kind of mellowed out the team,” Rollins said.
Rollins won the starting job as a freshman and said she barely came off the floor.
“She’s played a lot of basketball,” Forrest said. “After she found out she was going to have to have her knee worked on, the biggest thing she was disappointed in was that she wasn’t going to be able to play summer basketball. She plays all summer long too. She’s very knowledgeable of the game. She has a good basketball IQ, very good instincts. She doesn’t play like a sophomore.”
It was a role she was preparing for even before she reached high school, working out with the varsity team while playing in seventh and eighth grade.
“At first it was really scary,” she said. “People were so much taller than me and I thought more advanced, but it just helped me so much. They welcomed me and they knew I would be coming up and playing so they made sure I was ready to take on the task of playing point guard.”
Forrest quickly saw what Windsor had not only in Rollins but the rest of the sophomore class which includes power forward Shelby Williams, shooting guard Haley Crouch and small forward Rylee Moore.
“It helps to have some people around her who can play as well but she makes everybody around her better,” Forrest said.
Playing alongside so many capable shooters, Rollins found she could beat many opposing defenders off the dribble and developed into a player that would complement her teammates’ abilities by getting to the rim.
“I tell her she’s got the freedom to get to the rim any time she chooses,” Forrest said. “She has that ability. When she wants to get to the hole, she gets there. It’s nice to have someone who can break down a defense like that because it gets everyone else open.”
Rollins hasn’t been afraid to take Windsor’s offense on her shoulders. In a regular season game at Northwest, Ebeling found herself in foul trouble. Rollins responded by scoring 11 points in the first half. In the district final against Crest Ridge, the Cougars were intentionally fouling late in the game, trying to rally from a fourth quarter deficit. Rollins hit 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. A few days earlier she scored 15 of her team’s final 20 points including a buzzer beater to end the third quarter as the Greyhounds pulled away from Santa Fe.
“In practice we simulate game situations,” she said. “(Forrest) always throws in different people as the go-to person so everybody is ready. Just because we practice it so much, it was easier to be ready for.”
Rollins said the experience she’s gained has calmed her down in big games. And Windsor found itself in several, winning the conference regular season championship and a second consecutive district title.
“We knew we were coming back with a good team,” Rollins said. “We only lost one player from the year before, but we didn’t stop working. We just kept pushing and pushing and we tried our best.”
In addition to her abilities on offense, she is a solid defensive player as well.
“She keeps everything in front of her like we want her to,” Forrest said. “She doesn’t get beat very often. She draws a lot of tough assignments and being able to handle the ball and draw tough assignments, it’s crucial. It’s amazing she doesn’t wear down but she doesn’t. She keeps going.”
After a loss in the 2012 sectional, Rollins went to work, playing in a lot of tournaments last summer with her travel team and practicing with her parents and her brother.
“I really needed to work on my shooting,” she said. “I did lots of shooting exercises and conditioning, more ball-handling drills because I handle the ball so much.”
Shooting and handling pressure are things she said she still needs to improve on though that work will be delayed this summer as she recovers from her surgery last week. Her doctor told her it will be three more months until she can get back to work and six until she is completely healthy.
Until then, she said the worst pain she has to endure is the emotional pain of not being able to be on the court.